9 February 2009Several United Nations agencies have begun delivering urgent humanitarian relief to thousands of people forced from their homes as a result of a military offensive against insurgents in Pakistan’s north-western Swat Valley region. Twelve truck loads of aid have been shipped to some 2,000 families displaced by the ongoing troop surge in the area bordering Afghanistan, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told the press today. The convoy of food and non-food assistance reached the outskirts of the Swat Valley safely at the weekend amid intensified fighting, which has severely affected an estimated 1.8 million people.“We have to provide life-saving support to the population dispersed within the conflict zone as well as those who manage to move beyond,” said UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Fikret Akcura.Mr. Akcura noted that since the internally displaced persons (IDPs) are expected to remain in makeshift camps for an extended period of time, the international community must look beyond immediate emergency relief. “We have to cover such needs as education to children, literacy classes and skills development to [the] adult population so that they return as empowered citizens to their homes, once the conflict ends,” he stressed. The relief supplies, including food, shelter materials, clothing, kitchen utensils as well as water and sanitation facilities, were provided to the displaced by the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

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