For many years, Pakistan has been ravaged because of military and insurgent operations, causing human suffering and large-scale internal displacements. This is compounded by the presence of almost 2.7 million Afghan refugees. Furthermore, Pakistan experiences recurring natural disasters and suffers some of the world's worst food insecurity and chronic malnutrition. The assistance of the European Union focuses on disaster risk reduction measures and on strengthening the capacities of vulnerable communities. It also supports the rebuilding of water and sanitation facilities and implements programs that address food insecurity.
The northwestern region of Pakistan and the areas bordering Afghanistan are affected by large-scale displacements due to insurgency. The most recent conflict developments in 2014 prompted the displacement of over a million, 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 people have returned to their places of origin following an acceleration of returns over the past two years, over 170 000 people remained displaced as of June 2018.
Pakistan is one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries and frequently experiences multiple disasters in a given year. In recent 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 the most vulnerable communities. The Afghan refugee crisis is among the largest and most protracted refugee crises in the world. Since 2015, there have been periods of intense pressure on refugees to return, often through harassment and intimidation, requiring a concomitant increase in protection services.
In 2018, the European Union has allocated €5.5 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; for Afghan refugees living in Pakistan and for those affected by food insecurity related to climate change and recurrent natural disasters. Disaster risk reduction is an integral part of the EU's humanitarian commitment.
The European Commission is assisting the most vulnerable displaced Pakistani's both in their areas of refuge and in the areas to which they are returning where homes and infrastructure have been destroyed, notably with support for 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 health services, water and sanitation facilities, and legal protection services. The EU also contributes to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) that provides protection and maintenance services for refugees as well as an organised return programme.
The EU has contributed significantly to disaster risk reduction measures in the northwest through school and community earthquake prevention programmes. In the drought-prone arid province of Sindh, the EU funds a programme that focuses on promoting the integration of emergency nutritional shock response protocols into the government-led programme to tackle long-term malnutrition and food insecurity. The EU has operated 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 were channelled to flood victims through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Since 2009, EU humanitarian aid to people in need in Pakistan has totalled €554.5 million.