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UN says 60% of Swat’s schools destroyed

Sixty per cent of the schools in Swat in Pakistan’s restive northwest, where the military is now focusing its anti-Taliban operations, have been destroyed, the UN said.

world Updated: Jun 07, 2009 01:58 IST

Sixty per cent of the schools in Swat in Pakistan’s restive northwest, where the military is now focusing its anti-Taliban operations, have been destroyed, the UN said.

“In Swat, the district Department of Education (DoE) reported that 122 of 204 schools are completely destroyed,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said in its third situation report on Swat and two other districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

“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, said.

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

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 set up in the 21 refugee camps in Swat, Buner and Lower Dir districts.

The report said 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 said.

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

In a bid to ameliorate the suffering of the refugees in the regular camps, the International Labour Organization has hired them to do short-term work in the camps.

“Men are helping dig trenches for water pipelines, erect purda or privacy walls, install electricity in tents and carry out visitor registration. Female IDPs (internally displaced persons) provide care and information services 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,” the OCHA report said.

Funds, however, continue to be a problem.

“The funding situation remains dire, with only 25 per cent coverage of the Humanitarian Response Plan. Without fresh contributions, humanitarian response operations will be seriously hampered,” the report said.

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

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