Geneva, Switzerland (BBN)- Two United Nations agencies have joined forces to provide shelter and supplies to hundreds of thousands of people displaced by fighting in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province.

UN-HABITAT, the agency tasked with ensuring adequate shelter for all, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said they had begun the distribution of the first batch of 5,000 tents for the most vulnerable families identified in Mardan and Swabi districts.

UN-HABITAT also has begun distributing mattresses, blankets, buckets, kitchen sets and jerry cans to some 4,500 families staying in schools in Mardan.

UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond said the agency had identified two potential sites for new camps in the area and received permission from the local authorities to start the development of one of them.

The violence, which broke out on 2 May, has driven more than 1.9 million people from their homes, adding to some 500,000 forced to flee fighting in the area last year. Some 10 per cent of the 2.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the area are living in camps. The remainder are seeking shelter with relatives or in rented accommodations and public buildings.

UN-HABITAT is providing hygiene kits and latrines and supporting minor repairs of shelters and boundary walls, as well as providing locally procured alternative shelter kits and assisting with emergency repairs of community facilities such as water hand pumps and sanitation in local mosques.

“Displaced people residing with host families from the previous caseload and the new influx constitute the majority of the displaced population, yet they receive negligible support,” said UN-HABITAT Country Programme Manager Siamak Moghaddam.

The joint initiative is part of a longer-term plan to assist in the safe and dignified return of the displaced people to their homes, UN-HABITAT said.

BBN/SSR/SI/AD-31May09-11:00 am (BST)