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Pakistan: Revised Humanitarian Response Plan 2008/2009
In April 2009, an escalation in the fighting between Government forces and armed groups in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP) resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. By the end of May 2009, over 1.8 million people had fled. While some have been housed in camps, the vast majority (85 percent) are staying with host families in districts adjoining the conflict areas.
The massive increase in internally displaced persons (IDPs), combined with soaring food prices over the last 18 months, have resulted in a perilous food security situation in northwest Pakistan. The Government, United Nations (UN) agencies and non-governmental organizations are providing for responding to immediate life-saving needs and examining ways to prepare for, and support, the return of these displaced households once the fighting has ended. As the military operations continue, population flows will likely remain erratic with simultaneous returns and displacement within the region.
These extremely vulnerable households are also expected to be affected by weather-triggered hazards related to July and August monsoon rains. In order to support these activities, the UN has revised the 2008-2009 Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan, which was launched in September 2008 in the aftermath of the monsoon floods and increased inter-tribal fighting in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The Plan had previously been revised in January 2009 following the spread of the conflict to NWFP.
Challenges facing food security and livelihoods
Agriculture is the main livelihood strategy for over 80 percent of poor, rural households in NWFP, the population most affected by the ongoing conflict. The majority of IDP and host families combine smallholder crop production with livestock rearing (typically up to three cows or buffalo and five to eight sheep or goats). During the winter rabi season, wheat is the main crop and is primarily used for household food consumption. Vegetables are grown throughout the year, particularly during the summer kharif season and are an important source of both nutrition and income for household members. The sudden onset of the conflict led many of the affected households to abandon their livestock and leave their fields at a critical time in the agricultural calendar as wheat should be harvested in May and now lies wilting in the fields.
Previous experience and preliminary assessments from conflict-affected and IDP settlement areas highlight the importance of developing an integrated food security strategy combining direct food assistance and agricultural production-based food supply from the outset. A key priority area within the revised PHRP is to implement projects that support the recovery of livelihoods in order to immediately avert or minimize additional loss of life and damage to social and economic assets. In Bajaur agency, where IDPs have begun to return to their places of origin, most households are struggling to rebuild their livelihoods as they lack appropriate agricultural inputs and financial resources. It is essential that these returnees receive immediate assistance in order to ensure a sustainable and effective returns process.
The agriculture cluster, under the leadership of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), aims to protect and restore the food production and livelihoods of IDPs and host families in conflict-affected areas. In close collaboration with the Government, the cluster identified three focus areas under the revised PHRP:
- immediate assistance for agricultural production and enhancement of the food security of poor and vulnerable IDP households and host families affected by the armed conflict in NWFP;
- immediate support to returning IDPs in Bajaur agency to ensure the rapid restoration of food security and agriculture-based livelihoods; and
- immediate relief support to agriculture-based livelihoods and the rapid restoration of the food security of the affected households in Swat, Dir and Buner (when the situation allows).
As part of the May 2009 Revised Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan, FAO is seeking USD 15.7 million to assist vulnerable IDP and host families and enable them to restart their agriculture-based livelihoods.