North-western Pakistan, along the Afghan border, has for many years been marred by military and insurgent operations, triggering a series of large-scale internal displacements which contribute to the deterioration of the already dire humanitarian situation in the area. Recurring natural disasters and food insecurity also add to the country’s suffering. In addition, the situation of close to 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees and an estimated one million additional unregistered Afghans also remains a matter of concern.
The north-western region of Pakistan and the areas bordering Afghanistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are affected by large scale displacements due to insurgency. The most recent conflict developments in 2014 prompted the displacement of over a million people from North Waziristan Agency (NWA) and Khyber Agency in FATA to adjoining districts, adding to people still displaced from previous years and putting a strain on the already limited facilities in the hosting areas. While more than 1.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) had returned to their places of origin following an acceleration of returns over the past two years, over 253 000 people remained displaced as of September 2017. Displaced families require shelter, food, medicines, safe drinking water and education services for their children.
Pakistan frequently experiences multiple disasters in a given year. Over the last few years, the province of Sindh has been repeatedly affected by both floods and drought, further affecting the food security and livelihood opportunities. High levels of malnutrition, coupled with limited access to water, sanitation and medical services, have compromised the health and coping capacities of vulnerable communities. The Afghan refugee crisis is among the largest and most protracted refugee crises in the world. Since 2015, a sharp increase both in returns of registered refugees and deportations of undocumented refugees by Pakistan authorities has been recorded. In February, the government extended the validity of the proof of registration cards that enables Afghan refugees to stay in the country until the 31st of December 2017.
The European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department has been operating in Pakistan since the 1990s, providing humanitarian assistance to people affected by conflict and major natural disasters, including the 2005 earthquake and the devastating floods between 2010 and 2015, which affected a total of over 30 million people. Relief items have also been channelled to flood victims through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Since 2009, the EU aid to people in need in Pakistan has totalled €549 million.
In 2017, the European Commission has allocated €7.8 million to provide assistance to internally displaced Pakistanis and Afghan refugees as well as to strengthen the resilience and the capacity of vulnerable communities to better respond to future natural disasters.
Current humanitarian actions in Pakistan focus on three separate but interrelated crises: support for people affected by the conflict in the northwest; support for those malnourished and food insecure; support for Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. Response to natural disasters is also an integral part of the humanitarian commitment, together with disaster risk reduction.
The EU-funded projects provide lifesaving assistance through cash assistance, livelihood support, shelter, health, nutrition, water and sanitation services, and protection. This funding also includes the provision of safe access to quality education for conflict-affected children in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as well as for Afghan refugee children in multiple areas across the country. In addition, the EU supports safety and security assessments and coordination.
The European Commission remains engaged in the promotion of Afghans’ informed decision-making on durable solutions, and funds protection activities which support refugees with legal advice, renewal of proof of registration (PoR) cards, and obtaining birth certificates. Health services are also provided, with a focus on maternal neonatal and children health, as well as education for Afghan children in refugee villages. Since 2002, over 4.3 million Afghan refugees have repatriated with the assistance of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), including more than 418 000 since 2016. In addition, the European Commission supports protection activities including those aimed at preserving asylum space, refugee status determination and resettlement efforts carried out by UNHCR.