Pakistan + 1 more

Pakistan: Year in brief 2005 - Chronology of key events Jul - Dec

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[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
ISLAMABAD, 12 January (IRIN) - 5 July - At least five people have been killed and nearly 10,000 people have been displaced after two weeks of heavy flooding in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP), the provincial relief department said on Monday. According to meteorologists, unusual weather conditions including the heaviest snowfall in the region for over a century, have combined to cause the problems and created severe flooding along the Kabul and Swat rivers.

11 July - At least 17 people have been killed and an estimated 400,000 affected following a week of flooding along the Indus and Chenab rivers in Punjab, Pakistan's largest province, according to the provincial relief department. "Since 1992, there has not been much water in the river Indus, so people started cultivating land inside the riverbed and gradually settled there," said district officer coordinating relief activities, Zaffar Abbas Lali, speaking from Layyah, some 450 km south of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

14 July - More than 30,000 Afghan refugees have been assisted to repatriate over the past three weeks from North Waziristan agency in Pakistan's western tribal belt following Islamabad's decision to close the camp they were living in on 30 June for security reasons. A large number of refugees still continue to show up at the registration centre of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This was set up in the adjacent tribal agency of Kurram to register those who wished to qualify for the agency's repatriation assistance.

20 July - The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is preparing to distribute 7,850 food packs to flood affected communities in northern Pakistan, where heavy flooding over the past four weeks has displaced 10,000 people and an estimated 45,000 are in immediate need of food support. "We are coordinating with Islamic Relief (IR) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to distribute food supplies amongst Pakistani as well Afghan refugee families in three badly flood hit districts of Peshawar, Nowshera and Charsadda in NWFP [North West Frontier Province] and also in northern areas," WFP's Sahib-e-Haq said in Islamabad on Wednesday.

5 August - Plans to evict Afghan refugees still living in the Pakistani capital and the adjacent city of Rawalpindi are still being worked out, following a formal announcement of the move earlier this week. "The schedule and further details regarding options of repatriation or relocation of Afghans living in Islamabad [capital] and Rawalpindi will be announced shortly. We are working on it with all the relevant bodies," Jehangir Khan, head of the state-run Commissionerate of Afghan Refugees (CAR), said on Thursday from the western city of Peshawar.

8 August - Pakistani authorities have announced the closure of over 30 Afghan refugee camps by the end of August, citing security concerns. All are located in Kurram and Bajaur agencies in the western tribal belt of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. The move is a further step in the continuing policy of camp closures. "As of 31 August, all the Afghan refugee camps in Kurram and Bajaur agency will be closed. However, the camp residents can avail themselves of the UNHCR's [the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees] assistance package for repatriation back to Afghanistan," Jehangir Khan, head of the state-run Commissionerate of Afghan Refugees (CAR), said.

23 August - Rights activists in Pakistan have hailed increased participation by women in last week's local elections. "For the first time in the country's history, civil society groups, rights activists, media and other bodies have come up with a collective campaign for women electoral rights," Naeem Mirza, a project director with a leading women rights' body, the Aurat Foundation, said in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad on Monday.

23 August - Islamabad intends to adhere to a timetable of closures of various Afghan refugee camps and settlements across the country, a government official said on Tuesday, responding to reports that extensions were being considered to allow camp residents time to leave in safety and with dignity. "The deadlines will remain the same for all the Afghan refugee camps whether in the western tribal region or in Balochistan province or for Afghan settlements on the outskirts of capital. We have no plans to revise any of them at all," Dr Imran Zeb, director of the Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees (CAR), a state body dealing with Afghan refugees, said in the capital, Islamabad.

25 August - More than 2.5 million Afghan refugees would like to continue living in Pakistan beyond 2005, according to a detailed census report released on Wednesday by Pakistani authorities, in conjunction with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The findings of the report, entitled, 'Census of Afghans in Pakistan 2005' revealed that of three million Afghans in the country, some 75 percent are not ready to repatriate, citing poor security, a lack of adeqate housing, scarcity of jobs and various land issues.

9 September - Pakistan's leading independent rights body expressed grave concern this week over the poor humanitarian situation across remote parts of northern Pakistan. A 10-member group from the Human Right Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) visited the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA) in late August to assess the level of social services and infrastructure in this poorly developed part of the country.

14 September - About 394,000 Afghan refugees have repatriated so far this year from Pakistan under the voluntary repatriation programme of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an official from the refugee agency said on Wednesday. On the same day, the agency suspended its repatriation operation for about a week, ahead of Afghanistan's parliamentary election scheduled on 18 September. The programme will resume on 21 September.

3 October - The number of Afghan refugees returning from Pakistan under the voluntary repatriation assistance programme of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has passed the 2.7 million mark, with over 415,000 repatriated so far in 2005, the agency has announced. "It is very encouraging. Of all solutions for refugees, returning to their homeland is the most desirable," Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR assistant country representative, said in Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Friday.

6 October - International relief and development NGO Mercy Corps, in collaboration with Pakistan's National Tuberculosis Control Programme (NTCP), has launched an anti-tuberculosis (TB) drive in the two southern provinces of Balochistan and Sindh. "Over 11,000 TB patients will benefit every year directly from this project through the strengthening of existing treatment facilities in 60 diagnostic centres of government district hospitals in the target areas," Dr Saeedullah Khan, head of Mercy Corps' anti-TB project, said in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Wednesday. "Thereby it'll reduce TB prevalence and further transmission to over 6 million people from vulnerable communities," he claimed.

7 October - Despite a normal wet season over the summer months, Pakistan faces a possible 17 percent water shortage during the upcoming cropping season from October to March next year, the country's leading water regulatory authority has announced. "Though the situation is far better than last year when we faced a 50 percent water shortage with having just 5 MAF [million-acre feet] water available for irrigation needs, these shortages are becoming perpetual with every passing year - partly as a result of climatic conditions, but more for our lessened storage capacity over time," Muhammad Khalid Idrees Rana, a spokesman for the Indus River System Authority (IRSA), said in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Friday.

9 October - Rescue, relief and damage assessment missions were busy across the region on Sunday, after a powerful earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale hit mountainous parts of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan a day earlier, causing widespread devastation. In Pakistan alone, more than 18,000 people have been killed according to the Pakistani army, while another 40,000 have been reported injured across the northern hilly terrain of Pakistani-administered Kashmir, parts of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA).

10 October - The world's leading donor nations and international bodies rushed to provide aid to support relief efforts in Pakistan following a devastating earthquake, which has so far claimed the lives of over 20,000, left some 42,000 injured and made around four million homeless. Islamabad said it was overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster. The US government pledged US $50 million on Monday as an initial contribution for relief and reconstruction after the earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale struck northern Pakistan and Pakistani-administered Kashmir affected most by the disaster. In Indian-administered Kashmir, 865 people died from the earthquake.

11 October - The United Nations and its agencies appealed on Tuesday for upwards of US $280 million to help hundreds of thousands people in Pakistan and India who survived the regional tremor that killed around 33,000 in Pakistan alone and left scores more injured. "Every hour counts and I urge the world to respond and respond generously and willingly," United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan told a news conference in Geneva as the UN was preparing to launch the international appeal.

12 October - Communities made homeless by Saturday's powerful regional earthquake urgently need shelter and warm clothes as cold winter weather saps the energy of hundreds of thousands forced to camp in the open throughout northern Pakistan. The earthquake, that has killed at least 30,000 people and injured many more, has left over 2.5 million people homeless. "The shelter situation is a serious problem at the moment and in view of the cold weather, rain and snowfall across the mountainous region, tents should be winterised," Andrew Macleod, spokesman for the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team, said in the capital Islamabad on Wednesday.

13 October - The UN's Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, toured the devastated city of Muzaffarabad on Thursday - close to the epicentre of Saturday's massive regional earthquake - to see for himself the extent of the disaster that has killed at least 25,000 people and left more than 2 million homeless. "The biggest problem at the moment is to reach people in outlying areas. It's heart breaking to see flattened small villages. This devastation is just a complete nightmare, 70 percent of this city has been completely destroyed," Egeland told IRIN.

15 October - Poor sanitation is posing a growing health risk to earthquake survivors sheltering in an improvised camp at a university stadium in Muzaffarabad. Khalida Bhatti, a social worker and resident of the emergency camp in the quake-hit city, cited the lack of latrines and garbage disposal. "Women [particularly] are facing immense problems," she said.

16 October - Seven days after the quake, people in Balakot, one of the Pakistan towns most severely hit by the disaster, are finally receiving food, water and some medical care. But as winter rains lash the area and lightning flashes across the night skies, thousands continue to lie in the open. Many have only a sheet, often stained with blood, to protect them from the elements. Others lie barefoot and families huddle together for comfort and warmth.

18 October - The death toll is rising and weather conditions worsening, but 10 days on from the earthquake that devastated northern Pakistan, the world community has still not grasped the enormity of the disaster, according to senior UN relief officials. "It's true that we don't have enough capacity. It's true that we're not getting enough supplies through quickly enough. It's true that people are facing the most desperate situations," said Rob Holden, head of operations for the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

19 October - Tens of thousands of children remained cold, hungry and vulnerable to disease in remote parts of earthquake-affected Pakistan, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned on Wednesday. "There are still casualties coming in. We don't know what the numbers are but we still believe there are many people left up in the high regions of the mountains - including women, children and elderly people," UNICEF communications officer Katey Grusovin said from the badly damaged city of Mansehra in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP), not far from the quake's epicentre.

21 October - Relief efforts in earthquake-devastated Pakistan are becoming better coordinated as the various parties race against time to avert further tragedy and devastation. "Coordination is coming together well, but it's still a race against time," said UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) communications officer Katey Grusovin over the roar of helicopters in quake-devastated Mansehra in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP) on Friday.

24 October - As fresh tremors shook northern Pakistan on Sunday night, Zainab Khatoon from Bisham, a town of some 30,000 people, 250 km from the capital, Islamabad, began screaming in fear. The town is close to the epicentre of the original earthquake that struck more than two weeks ago. The 17-year-old did not stop for over an hour and then only when a paramedic, apparently no longer able to take the screams ringing out in the darkness, injected her with a powerful sedative.

26 October - The United Nations called on Wednesday for a massive and urgent increase in donor commitment to help the survivors of the South Asian earthquake that has killed at least 79,000 people, according to Pakistani authorities. "We need more resources to save 2 million to 3 million lives and we need much more resources in the next few days," Jan Egeland, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said. The call came as the United Nations on Wednesday raised its appeal for donations for the millions of survivors to almost US $550 million as a donor conference in Geneva was set to begin.

27 October - Each day for the past week, Allah Nawaz, his son Zain, nine, and daughter Fareeda, 13, sit by the main road leading from Muzaffarabad towards Srinagar in Indian-administered Kashmir, gazing up at passing trucks bearing relief goods. Their wait continues for up to eight hours each day, hoping against hope a truck will stop and hand over something. Most vehicles drive past at high speed to larger settlements further up the road. Then the family trudges wearily back up the steep path that leads to their home village of Lawasi, 4 km from Garhi Dopatta - reaching home two hours later.

30 October - Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Ann Veneman, arrived in Pakistan on Sunday as part of two-day visit to highlight the plight of children in quake-affected areas of the north. "The children and their families cannot wait much longer," Veneman warned at a press conference at the UN compound in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir. "We must do everything we can to ensure their survival. They need shelter and care as quickly as possible." It's a message being repeated again and again, with the UN warning of a second wave of deaths unless greater donor assistance arrives now.

1 November - The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), together with the Ministry of Social Welfare (MoSW), has begun the massive task of registering all children currently living in emergency settlements across quake-hit areas of Pakistan and Pakistani-administered Kashmir. "Registration that has started in the cities of Mansehra and Muzaffarabad will soon be expanded to other areas. It would help to have some sort of statistics of affected children including those unaccompanied, with specifications regarding their age and gender groups to facilitate us in future planning," Serap Maktav, UNICEF's South Asia regional adviser on child protection said in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Tuesday.

2 November - It starts with a cough, a cold and strong shivering, but the results can be deadly. Sitting on a bed at the Abbas Institute for Medical Sciences (AIMS) in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Faraz Lalkhan, 28, has no idea what's wrong with her daughter Zarana, although doctors are already convinced. The two-year-old has pneumonia. "Everyone is coughing," said Dr Irum Gilani of AIMS, the only functioning public hospital in the Kashmiri city, citing a significant rise in acute respiratory infections (ARI) over recent days.

7 November - Almost one month after the South Asia earthquake, international charity Oxfam has started installing sanitation facilities in emergency settlements housing quake victims in and around the city of Bagh in Pakistani-administered Kashmir. Almost 70 percent of the town's water supply was destroyed after the 8 October disaster.

8 November - One month after the earthquake that devastated northern Pakistan and has killed at least 73,000, some half a million people are still without shelter. For the aid agencies it has become a race against time to reach remote mountain villages with shelter kits and tents before the bitter Himalayan winter descends. If snow falls before aid gets to survivors, Pakistan could be facing another humanitarian crisis with thousands of deaths.

11 November - In a bid to address immediate shelter requirements in quake-affected areas of northern Pakistan as the weather rapidly deteriorates, the military is deploying about 180 teams from engineering battalions with shelter repair kits. The plan is to help erect one room for each affected household living at higher altitudes before the snows arrive.

14 November - Outraged at the burning of two churches after alleged desecration of Islam's holy book by a Christian man, minority groups and human rights watchdogs in Pakistan on Monday demanded repeal of the country's blasphemy law, which they said was being misused frequently. The fires came a day after a local Muslim resident in Pakistan's central Punjab province accused a Christian of burning a one-room Islamic school along with copies of the Koran.

16 November - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has announced that it is increasing food rations to help those affected by the South Asian earthquake to survive the bitter winter months. "The rates will increase next month from 75 kg of wheat flour per family per month to 100 kg," Kyaw Oo Maung, a WFP programme officer, said in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

17 November - United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Pakistan on Thursday where he made a fresh appeal for donors to urgently help victims of the 8 October South Asian earthquake. Annan will attend a donor's conference on Saturday aiming to raise the US $5.2 billion Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf says is needed for the Asian nation to recover from the disaster. Musharraf has called funds received so far from international donors "negligible". The UN leader arrived at an airbase in Rawalpindi, near the federal capital Islamabad, for his three-day visit.

18 November - With winter in northern Pakistan's earthquake zone imminent, aid workers are increasingly concerned that hundreds of thousands of survivors currently living at high altitude may soon descend seeking assistance, swamping relief camps at lower levels. "An estimated 200,000 people may descend from the hills around Neelum and Allai valleys, according to aid agencies, but so far there are not sufficient arrangements if this many people decide to migrate," Darren Boisvert, a communications officer for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Friday.

19 November - In a rare display of solidarity, the international community on Saturday pledged more than US $5.8 billion in assistance to quake-devastated Pakistan. "We are really touched by your generosity, by your feeling of sharing our grief," Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said at the closing session of this weekend's international donor conference in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. Of the $5.8 billion, about $3.9 billion would be in the form of soft loans, with the remaining $1.9 billion comprising of grants, Aziz explained.

21 November - Encircled by looming mountain peaks, the green Lipa Valley in Pakistani-administered Kashmir is a remote land, cut through by deep gorges and gushing rivers that flow down from the Himalayas. At least 40,000 people live in Lipa Valley and some 15,000 lost their homes in the earthquake that devastated the region, killing over 80,000 people and leaving destruction across a huge area.

22 November - A major operation to distribute 900 mt of aid in six days has been successfully completed from the city of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir and close to the epicentre of October's devastating regional quake. The British Department for International Development (DfID) donated the use of three Chinook helicopters and some 90 crew from the Royal Air Force to undertake the difficult drops. The helicopters delivered relief items to 10 distribution points in the Lipa and Neelum Valleys and managed to move an average of 165 mt of cargo a day.

23 November - Inadequate funding continues to hamper humanitarian efforts in quake-hit regions of northern Pakistan, where night temperatures in some places above 1,500 metres have already dropped below freezing. The UN Flash Appeal funding for winter relief operations is facing a critical shortfall of some US $250 million, with only $180 million received or committed to date, officials say.

28 November - Bad weather conditions were seriously hampering earthquake relief efforts in northern Pakistan on Monday, with dozens of helicopter flights cancelled. Millions of survivors without shelter were drenched by heavy rain and left freezing as temperature plummeted. Up 20 cm of snow fell in some high altitude areas. "The bad weather has cost us a day and a half of our operations with 30 flights cancelled," said Walid Ibrahim, a logistics officer with the World Food Programme (WFP) in Muzaffarabad, close to the epicentre of the 8 October quake in which more than 86,000 people are known to have died.

30 November - With the onset of winter conditions in much of northern Pakistan and hundreds of people pouring daily into medical facilities in the region with cold-related problems, health officials have stressed the urgent need to upgrade the living conditions of quake survivors and provide them with warm shelters and clothing to avert a second wave of deaths. "It's not a matter of doctors and more supplies, rather the number of acute respiratory infections (ARI) and other cold-related complaints would reduce significantly if people had better living conditions [and] warmer clothing," Rachel Levy, emergency coordinator for the World Health Organization (WHO), said in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Wednesday.

1 December - Pakistani authorities are soon to close the large, well-established Jalozai Afghan refugee camp, home to 120,000 people and located in the Nowshera district of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP), some 140 km northwest of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. "On account of security concerns the camp has only been identified for closure. However, the formal closure will be announced only after consultation with the government of Afghanistan and the UN refugee agency [the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)]," Dr Imran Zeb, director of the Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees (CAR), a state body dealing with Afghan refugees, said in Islamabad on Thursday.

8 December - Health experts have expressed grave concern over unsanitary conditions at over 1,000 spontaneous camps housing earthquake survivors in parts of northern Pakistan and Pakistani-administered Kashmir. "Spontaneous camps are a potential [health] risk. The unsanitary conditions in these camps continue to give cause for concern," Dr Khalif Bile, country head of the World Health Organization (WHO), said in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Thursday.

9 December - Thousands of earthquake survivors are still without shelter more than two months on. The earthquake, which killed over 80,000 people, left an estimated 3.5 million survivors homeless. The exact figure of homeless survivors is not known, said Darren Boisvert, media and public information officer for the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The Pakistani government estimates that 480,000 houses need to be rebuilt in Pakistani-administered Kashmir alone.

16 December - The World Bank on Thursday approved an emergency credit of about US $400 million to support the earthquake recovery and reconstruction efforts in Pakistan over the next three years. "This credit will allow people to put their lives and homes back together," said John Wall, World Bank country director for Pakistan, in the capital, Islamabad.

19 December - Health authorities in northern Pakistan and Pakistani-administered Kashmir, supported by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), on Monday launched the third phase of an immunisation campaign to prevent the outbreak of communicable diseases in camps set up after the 8 October earthquake, officials said.

28 December - Together with the Pakistani authorities, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will soon launch a household-level registration exercise to record the profiles of quake-hit displaced families housed in tented camps across northern parts of quake-hit Pakistan. "This camp registration aims to record their total numbers and their vulnerability. The deduced information will also serve in planning for the early recovery phrase," Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR's emergency coordinator for earthquake relief said in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

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