19 May 2009

Pakistan fighting creates 1.4m refugees

10:32 am on 19 May 2009

The number of people displaced by fighting in Pakistan's northwestern Swat valley has risen to more than 1.4 million, UN humanitarian chief John Holmes says.

He says extra financial resources are urgently needed to deal with the situation and the United Nations would soon launch an emergency appeal for hundreds of millions of dollars to cover the costs of the refugees over the next 12 months.

Pakistan's government on Sunday urged people stranded by a military offensive against Taliban militants in the Swat valley, 130 km northwest of Islamabad, to try to get out.

Many civilians are believed to still be inside Mingora, the main town in Swat, after the army launched an offensive more than a week ago to stop the spread of Taliban influence.

Mr Holmes says about 250,000 of those registered as displaced are in some 24 camps, meaning that most people are with families, in rented accommodation or elsewhere.