Islamabad, Pakistan (BBN)- The top United Nations refugee official Thursday issued a call for a massive surge in international assistance to help the over 800,000 Pakistanis recently displaced by clashes between Government forces and militants in the country’s north-west.

“This is not a moment for small gestures,” High Commissioner António Guterres said during a visit to the Yar Hussein camp in the Swabi district of North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

He kicked off a three-day mission to Pakistan today to assess the emergency response of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), which has been rushing aid to the region, to stem the ongoing displacement crisis.

Deploring the pace at which the displacement is occurring, Mr. Guterres emphasized that the time has come for the international community to repay Pakistan for its generosity in hosting millions of Afghan refugees over the years.

Since 2 May, over 835,000 people have been registered as displaced, with fewer than one-tenth of them sheltering in camps. This is on top of the more than 500,000 people registered as fleeing their homes after earlier fighting in the north-west since last August.

Most of the uprooted are staying with relatives or friends, resulting in social and economic hardships, the High Commissioner said. “The dimensions of the problem are far out of proportion to the available resources.”

Earlier on the day, Mr. Guterres met with Najmuddin Khan, Minister for States and Frontier Regions, and Frida Wazir of the Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees.

BBN/SS/SI/AD-15May09-12:07 pm (BST)