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'60 per cent of Swat's schools destroyed'

world Updated: Jun 06, 2009 18:58 IST

IANS
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Sixty percent of the schools in Swat in Pakistan's restive northwest, where the military is currently focussing its anti-Taliban operations, have been destroyed, the UN says, quoting government officials.

"In Swat, the district Department of Education (DoE) reported that 60 percent of schools (122 of 204) are completely destroyed," the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), says in its third situation report on Swat and two other districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) where the military operations are also underway.

"DoE has plans to build temporary low cost shelters to replace these schools as soon as the area becomes accessible. In Buner, the district DoE has resumed operations and plans to conduct an initial assessment of damaged school facilities," the report, the third in a series and covering the June 2-4 period, says.

The next report is expected on or around June 9, said OCHA, whose mission is to mobilize and coordinate effective and principled humanitarian action in partnership with national and international actors.

As an interim measure, 15,405 children have been enrolled at the primary level and 1,968 at the middle and secondary levels at makeshift schools that have been set up in the 21 refugee camps in Swat, Buner and Lower Dir districts.

Quoting the NWFP Emergency Response Unit, the report says there are 265,122 refugees in the 21 camps.

In addition, "there are 100,000 people in 2,000 spontaneous camps with urgent needs in

water and sanitation", the report points out.

And, "new displacement from Lower Dir, Swat and Buner is occurring as curfews have been lifted to allow civilians who remain in the areas to leave", the report says.

The United Nations High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) had previously estimated that some 3 million refugees have fled the area. Many of them are apparently living with friends and relatives or have migrated to other provinces.

In a bid to ameliorate the sufferings of the refugees in the regular camps, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has hired them to do short term work in camps.

"Men are helping to dig trenches for water pipelines, erect purda or privacy walls, install electricity in tents and carry out visitors' registration. Female IDPs (internally displaced persons) provide information services and care to injured and pregnant women; they also improve tents by fixing flooring, drainage and erecting safety walls.

"So far, a total of 955 workdays have been created, 764 for men and 191 for women," the OCHA report said.

Funds, however, continue to be a problem.

"The funding situation remains very dire with only 25 percent coverage of the Humanitarian Response Plan. Without fresh contributions, humanitarian response operations will seriously be hampered," the report says, without giving any figures.

The UN office in Islamabad has estimated that some $543 million will be required for the relief and rehabilitation of the refugees. Of this, the US has already pledged $110 million and promised another $200 million.

Pakistan had won pledges of over $200 million at an international donors conference here last month.

The armed forces had gone into action April 26 after the Taliban reneged on a controversial peace deal with the NWFP government and instead moved south from their Swat headquarters and instead occupied Buner, which is just 100 km from Islamabad.

The operations had begun in Lower Dir, the home district of Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Muhammad who had brokered the peace deal and who is the father-in-law of Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah, and later spread to Buner and Swat.

The military says a little over 1,300 militants have so far been killed in the operations, while the security forces have lost some 85 personnel.

When the operations began, the military estimated it was up against some 4,000-5,000 heavily armed militants. It now says half of them have fled the area after shaving their beards and intermingling with the refugees streaming out of the battle zone.