Food Provides Critical Lifeline and Stability for Pakistan Displaced

Published on 04 June 2009

A young displaced boy sits on a sack of WFP food at the Haji hub near Peshawar

(Copyright: WFP/Amjad Jamal)

ROME -- The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is streaming critically needed food assistance to more than two million displaced people in Pakistan and helping to bring stability to the region through an innovative system which is helping to feed and protect victims.

“Food is a basic building block for life, and in Pakistan it goes beyond immediate nourishment by providing peace and stability to the human tide of people uprooted by conflict,” said WFP’s Executive Director, Josette Sheeran. WFP was already feeding 6.2 million people in Pakistan before the recent crisis, including 510,000 girls attending school.

WFP - in cooperation with the Government of Pakistan and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR - has devised a ‘service point’ approach to distributing food and other relief assistance through “humanitarian hubs” in protected areas close to the homes of displaced families.

Targeted food

As the Pakistani authorities and UNHCR work to refine their process of registering families for food assistance, WFP is working to ensure that food is targeted sharply on those who need it most.

With overcrowding a major issue in camps for internally-displaced persons (IDPs) near Peshawar and other cities, the hubs - 28 of which have been established so far - have become a critical lifeline to those in need.  Once at a hub, IDPs receive monthly WFP food rations plus relief items such as cooking utensils and shelter materials against their verified registration card. Nearly 90 percent of all IDPs fleeing the most recent fighting do not stay at camps, but in host communities within easy reach of the humanitarian hub.

New approaches  

Sheeran said WFP is ready to try new approaches to respond to the needs of a large number of unexpectedly displaced people over the next several months. In May alone, WFP distributed some 40,000 metric tons of food commodities valued at US$30 million – enough to feed 2.6 million people for a month.

Given the enormous challenges posed by the rapid increase of displaced people, WFP is making a number of efforts to provide critical relief, in addition to the establishment of humanitarian hubs by: 

  • providing nutritional supplements for women and children to prevent malnutrition among the most vulnerable members of displaced families;
  • designing community development programs (Food-for-Work, School Nutrition) in safe areas to encourage stability and provide economic opportunities;
  • in partnership with the Government’s National Registration Authority offering IDPs “smart cards” which are swiped like a bank withdrawal card to provide cash to buy food rations in areas where sufficient food is available on markets.
  • delivering 97 metric tons of a highly nutritious food supplement, called Plumpy’ Doz which will be distributed to children under the age of 5, who have been identified as needing urgent additional assistance.  Plumpy’ Doz is a peanut paste containing skimmed milk, sugar, vitamins and minerals that can be eaten on its own or added to meals.