This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 6 August 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
Monsoon rain continues to sweep across parts of Pakistan. According to UNHCR implementing partners on the ground, it has been raining today in northern areas of the Swat Valley in flood-affected Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.
The rich agricultural region around Barikot has been seriously affected by the flood waters sweeping beyond the banks of the bloated Swat river. Of some 25 bridges in Swat, 22 have reportedly been washed out as the water sweeps downwards towards the Kabul and Indus rivers.
UNHCR contacts on the ground in Barikot report that there are shortages of food and medicine while electrical power and gas supplies have been disconnected. In many areas, clean water isn’t available as so many wells have been filled with mud.
The current monsoon is the worst downpour the region has seen in more than 80 years.
UNHCR is initially aiming to support more than 350,000 of the most vulnerable among the flood-affected population in Pakistan. The agency has done a provisional estimation of needs, according to which we are asking for more than $21 million to address the emergency requirements of the flood affected people, including Afghan refugees and Pakistanis host communities.
With many hundreds of thousands of people displaced and without adequate shelter, food and water, government departments and aid agencies are in a race against time to reach affected communities while many roads and key bridges remain cut off.
According to the Federal Flood Commission, more than 248,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged and 1.38 million acres (558,000 hectares) of crop land flooded across Pakistan. More than 10,000 cows have reportedly perished over the past eight days.
The UNHCR will receive supplies donated by the Saudi Fund for Development including 25,000 tents, 380,000 blankets, 126,000 plastic tarpaulins, 100,000 mattresses and 25,000 kitchen sets as well as 20,000 food parcels for Ramadan.
“We have no place to stay, now we have been accommodated in a school but once the school reopens after the summer break what would happen to us and where would we go? We have lost our house and do not have money to rent a house” one woman now living in a school near Peshawar told UNHCR’s field team”
UNHCR’s main mandate is protecting refugees, but the organisation has always positively responded to the call for humanitarian assistance for the local population of Khyber Pakthunkhwa and Balochistan. Living in Pakistan’s monsoon-affected communities are some 1.5 million Afghan refugees who have taken shelter in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan over the past three decades and an estimated more than 700,000 people displaced by fighting in the Swat Valley and other areas last year.