ISLAMABAD, Dec 21: The government on Thursday sought United Nations intervention to help avert nutrition crisis among 84,000 displaced persons in Balochistan. They were displaced due to instability in the province.

This is the first official acknowledgement of the deteriorating nutritional situation among internally displaced persons IDPs in Balochistan, a senior UN official told Dawn.

In the past, the government had been rejecting the presence of IDPs in the province and had prevented aid groups from helping them. Among the 84,000 IDPs, 26,000 were women and 33,000 were children, according to UN estimates.

A letter received by the UN system in Pakistan from the Balochistan government said: “The UN agencies may carry out nutritional intervention in districts of Naseerabad, Jaffarabad and Quetta."

These districts house majority of the IDPs. The remaining are in Sibi and Bolan districts.

The intervention by the UN has, however, been made conditional. It will be carried out through health facilities in the districts and under the supervision of local authorities.

The United Nations has approved a $1 million humanitarian relief package for six months to address this crisis. The package includes immediate setting up of 57 supplementary feeding centres and three therapeutic feeding centres in the three districts, provision of food, medicine and nutrition for children, blankets, water purification and sanitation equipment and technical assistance.

Unicef will carry out the relief operation, while the UNDP, the WHO, the UNFPA, the WFP and the UNHCR will support it. The government decision to involve the aid agencies comes after an intense persuasion by the UN to accept humanitarian assistance for the IDPs in the province.

The issue came in limelight after one of the UN internal assessments had revealed that the survival of several thousands children was in great danger. The assessment had found out that there were some 84,000 IDPs in the province.

The report prepared by Unicef on the nutritional status of women and children among the IDPs showed that 28 per cent children under the age of five were `acutely undernourished’. Out of them, six per cent was in the state of `severe acute malnutrition’. According to WHO standards, the situation was critical.

The assessment revealed that 80 per cent of deaths among the IDPs were children under the age of five. Senior UN official Ronald Van Dijk described them as `innocent victims’.

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