- Pakistan is ranked 141 of 182 on the Human Development Index.
- The country is highly prone to natural disasters.
- Over 2.7 million people were displaced at the height of the current crisis in July 2007 and over 1.66 million have now returned to their places of origin.
- The country is currently subject to mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets. A suicide bombing at the World Food Programme (WFP) compound in Islamabad on 5 October killed five and wounded six UN staff members. This attack, and the recent assault on a UN guesthouse in neighbouring Afghanistan, will inevitably have direct ramifications for ongoing humanitarian operations, specifically in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan.
- Displacements resulting from the continuation of military operations by the Armed Forces of Pakistan against armed opposition groups are continuing across areas of the NWFP and FATA.
- Though UN-led advocacy continues, access to most displacement/ conflict zones remains extremely limited for UN workers, with limited access granted in some instances to national staff.
Humanitarian response activities in Pakistan remain extremely complex, with a protracted conflict generating four principle categories of people in need: returnees; those who have remained in conflict zones during operations; IDPs who remain in camps or with host families; and host families providing food and shelter to IDPs. These groups will continue to require OCHA support well into 2010. However, should the Pakistan armed forces achieve and maintain greater levels of control thus inducing enhanced stability across areas of the NWFP and FATA, OCHA functions may begin to transition. The focus might thus change from current life-saving operations to an expansion of early recovery actions, with a view to widening developmental/reconstruction activities.
The rapidly changing environment in Pakistan is a significant challenge to OCHA coordination efforts. The in-country security environment remains extremely volatile. OCHA will be faced with small-scale and cyclic population displacements throughout 2010. Local conditions and requirements will determine the nature of the response (humanitarian, recovery, development). In some areas, the various phases of response (life-saving and time-critical) will be required simultaneously (e.g. in the Malakand Division of NWFP and in parts of FATA).
The existing cultural barriers for women will exacerbate the vulnerability of female and child-headed households. Special efforts will be required to ensure that gender considerations are adequately taken into account in the design and implementation of humanitarian activities. Access will continue to pose a challenge for OCHA in 2010. The bombing of the WFP compound in Islamabad that killed five and injured six United Nations staff on 5 October 2009 – and the rapid increase in mass-casualty attacks against the civilian population since that attack – is already affecting OCHA and wider humanitarian community work. And an increased burden is being placed upon the NGO community to maintain the provision of assistance.
OCHA will address the access concerns and rapidly changing environment by the following actions: improving security (i.e. by employing a security advisor whose role will be to ensure the safety of OCHA staff; deploying armoured cars for future field visits; ensuring adequate preparedness by keeping abreast of developments and constantly analyzing the context in close support and cooperation with the United Nations Department of Safety and Security.) OCHA will furthermore fulfill its mandated leadership and support function for the work of the Humanitarian Coordinator, United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, NGOs and government by:
- Identifying gaps in the humanitarian response and providing tools, information and data to better target response actions.
- Supporting the daily functioning of the clusters, by striving to ensure greater inter-cluster dialogue to reduce the duplication of work.
- Acting as a common link between the humanitarian community and the government.
- Advocating with the government on behalf of those displaced to ensure that humanitarian assistance is provided with respect and with dignity.
- Working closely with the donor community to keep them informed of humanitarian developments and encourage coordination of bilateral funding activities.
Given the limited government capacity to respond to the complex and constantly evolving situation, OCHA plans to maintain its in-country support function throughout 2010. With the likelihood that the instability will persist, OCHA will continue to reinforce coordination structures and systems, with a view to commence dialogue on transitioning its functions to longer-term actors as relative stability returns to the country.