- Pakistan - refugees - Swat valley - Taliban
AFP - The United Nations Friday appealed for a total of 543 million dollars to help 1.7 million people displaced by the ongoing military offensive in northwest Pakistan.
The appeal comes as people continue to stream out of the conflict zone into camps set up in different parts of the North West Frontier Province.
A UN statement said the figure included 88.5 million dollars which had already been provided or committed by donors but aid agencies and non-governmental organisations needed 454.6 million dollars in extra funds urgently to help the internally displaced.
The money is also needed to provide continuing support to 550,000 people who had fled the situation since August last year.
"Fleeing from intensified insecurity in Pakistan’s northwest province, some 1.7 million displaced people have been registered since early May and are now either living in relief camps or with host families," the statement said.
"The scale of this displacement is extraordinary in terms of size and speed, and has caused incredible suffering," the statement quoted the acting UN humanitarian coordinator, Martin Mogwanja, as saying.
"We are calling for generous support from the international community, in addition to the assistance being provided by both ordinary families and the national authorities," the statement said.
UN agencies and Pakistani and international relief groups were "working together to ensure we get relief to people as quickly as possible," the statement said.
Pakistan's economic affairs minister Hina Rabbani Khar said Islamabad backed the humanitarian appeal.
"The government of Pakistan fully supports the appeal which is being launched and we are partners in this," Khar said.
"It (appeal) becomes extremely important as the first step toward the 'three Rs' which is relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction," she said.
"We also understand fully that this military surge that is currently undergoing in these areas has to be followed up by an equally intensive civilian surge," she said.
Diplomats based in Islamabad have expressed concern over the situation in Swat and said their home governments were actively considering further aid in response to the latest UN appeal.
As the conflict ploughs on with no end in sight, concerns are mounting about how to cope with the displaced, uprooted in what rights groups have called Pakistan's biggest movement of people since partition from India in 1947.
Western countries have already separately pledged 224 million dollars of aid including 100 million dollars from the United States.