For many years, military and insurgent operations in Pakistan have caused human suffering and large-scale internal displacement. The situation is compounded by the presence of an estimated 3 million Afghans. Pakistan also suffers recurring natural hazards and some of the worst food shortages and chronic malnutrition rates in the world.
Pakistan has been hosting Afghan refugees for the past 4 decades, making it the second top refugee-hosting country worldwide. Meanwhile, the UN estimates that up to 300,000 additional Afghans will seek refuge in Pakistan in the coming months due to the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.
Providing protection and basic lifesaving services for most vulnerable Afghans remains a key priority. This is especially important for undocumented refugees, who are at most risk of deportation and have limited access to jobs and basic services.
In 2014, the areas bordering Afghanistan were affected by large-scale internal displacement due to a military campaign that forced millions of people from their homes, adding to those still displaced from previous years.
Although 1.5 million internally displaced people have returned home, conditions in areas of return are dire. They have damaged infrastructure, including homes and water supply, limited health and education services, and few job opportunities.
Pakistan is one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, experiencing frequent disasters such as earthquakes, floods and drought.
Malnutrition and limited access to water, sanitation and medical services have compromised the healthcare capacities of the most vulnerable communities. The current COVID-19 pandemic has added to existing humanitarian needs.
In 2021, the EU allocated €7 million in humanitarian support, bringing a total of €611 million to Pakistan since 2009. The aid supports people affected by conflict, including Pakistani internally displaced and returnees, Afghan refugees, as well as those affected by natural hazards.
EU humanitarian funding also focuses on strengthening the resilience and the capacity of vulnerable communities to better respond to natural hazards such as earthquakes, recurrent floods and drought. In 2020, we allocated close to €40 million – of which almost 60% went towards fighting COVID-19, which has put a serious strain on the country’s health system.
The EU assists the most vulnerable displaced Pakistanis, both in their areas of refuge and in the destroyed areas to which they have returned, with support for education, and water and sanitation facilities.
Although most Afghan refugees are integrated into Pakistani society, some live precariously in isolated communities where EU-funded projects assist them with healthcare services, education, water and sanitation facilities, and legal protection services.
The EU humanitarian budget also focuses on disaster preparedness and emergency response to natural hazards. In response to the severe floods that swept across large parts of the country in August 2020, the EU allocated €1.15 million in funding to deliver vital assistance.
Earlier the same year, the EU provided funding to support people affected by floods and snowfall in Balochistan province. The aid provided shelter toolkits and winter items to the impacted families while also ensuring they had access to clean water, sanitation facilities, and hygiene items.
In response to droughts in southern Pakistan, disaster preparedness assistance has focused on building the capacity of the local health structures, as well as to anticipate and be better prepared to face surges in acute malnutrition. The gravity of food shortages and malnutrition crises in Sindh and Balochistan will continue to require strengthened humanitarian, as well as development and structural support.
The EU has operated in Pakistan since the 1990s, providing humanitarian assistance to people affected by conflict and major natural hazards, including the 2005 earthquake and the devastating 2010-2015 floods, which affected more than 30 million people. Relief items were channelled to flood victims through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.