ASIA/PAKISTAN - As rigid Kashmir Winter sets in more mountain people may move to lower valleys

Wednesday, 7 December 2005

Lahore (Fides Service) - The UN High Commission for Refugees which has been operating in Pakistan to assist earthquake victims since the October 8 tragedy, is preparing for a possible exodus of mountain village people to lower areas as the rigid Kashmir Winter sets in. In fact the Pakistan government estimates that from 100-200,000 mountain dwellers in North West Frontier Province and another 30,000 in Pakistan administered Kashmir will move to valley areas. Heavy snow falls already at the beginning of November forced many to descend to lower valleys to find basic necessities. Some returned to their villages but humanitarian organisations may urge them to spend the winter in milder climate areas.
In the meantime UNHCR mobile teams continue to provide technical advice and assistance to Pakistan army and authorities in 30 organised camps and other spontaneous camps. The priority for the network which guarantees humanitarian aid is to assist local authorities in operations to face the Winter in both types of camps: each tent must have two plastic sheets as a cover, four mattresses, a heater and fuel and three blankets per person.
UNHCR continues to air lift aid to Pakistan and aims in the next few weeks to transport 30,000. heaters on chartered commercial lights from Turkey and Jordan and another load from Iran via land. However needs in the affected area are still great.
Among Christian aid organisations offering humanitarian aid and medical know-how medico, Caritas Internationalis, through Caritas Pakistan and Caritas in other countries. Almost total destruction of homes in Kashmir continues to render the situation for four million displaced person extremely critical. An Italian association Raoul Follereau AIFO present for some years in Pakistan with health and social development programmes, reported that five of its rehabilitation were centres destroyed and many volunteers killed or missing. (Agenzia Fides 7/12/2005 righe 29 parole 293)