ISLAMABAD: Over half a million people displaced by the military operation in North Waziristan have been registered so far.
A freshly consolidated report, submitted to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Sunday, puts the number of registered internally displaced persons (IDPs) at 572,529.
At least 44,633 families have fled their homes in the restive tribal agency after the military launched Operation Zarb-i-Azb, targeting terrorist sanctuaries in the area, according to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.
The spiralling number of displaced people is alarming, as many fear the government and other aid agencies may not be able to cope with such a large number of refugees.
Govt had originally planned for 600,000 refugees
On June 24, Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch had said the government estimated the total number of IDPs from North Waziristan to be around 600,000, adding that they had made arrangements to provide food and shelter to over half a million people.
Now though, as the number inches dangerously close to that ceiling, government and aid officials say that the number is inflated by duplication and that once the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) sifts through the data, this number might rise or fall.
Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid told Dawn the prime minister had promised that no expense would be spared in taking care of IDPs. “Each family coming from North Waziristan is being registered through Nadra and will receive financial assistance after due verification,” he said.
Mr Rashid said that according to government estimates, each family would receive Rs40,000 in cash and rations worth Rs30,000 in the first month. As per the prime minister’s orders, each registered family is expected to receive compensation through Zong mobile phone SIMs, starting July 8.
The report released to the press by the PM Office reveals that Rs329.57 million has been distributed among 27,664 families in financial support, while 4,500 tons of relief goods have been provided to 31,000 registered families in collaboration with the Pakistan Army and the World Food Programme (WFP).
About 5,000 food packages, weighing 110 kilogrammes each, are being distributed every day at 11 distribution points and non-food items, such as household goods, have also been distributed among 31,000 families.
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WFP spokesperson Amjad Jamal told Dawn it was difficult to be certain at the moment, as more and more refugees continued to flood into government camps every day. “There are many cases where different male members from the same family unit have registered themselves separately. This is in addition to the scores of unregistered families and others who do not possess identity cards, which are a prerequisite for obtaining aid. Data-cleaning is under way and we will soon have a clear idea of the total number of internally displaced families,” Mr Jamal said.
The finance ministry has so far released Rs1.5 billion for the IDPs. The federal cabinet’s Economic Coordination Committee recently approved 60,000 tons of wheat worth Rs.2.8bn for distribution among the displaced. The army has also established 33 points countrywide to collect donations from the general public.
Rescue 1122 is contributing staff and equipment for relief efforts and 15 mobile veterinary clinics have been established in Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Dera Ismail Khan, Karak and Tank. These have treated more than 20,000 animals so far while another 42,000 animals have been vaccinated.
Among foreign donors, the US and UAE governments have released $31m and $20.5m, respectively.
Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2014