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Lack of funds hits aid in Pakistan's restive NW: U.N.

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Monday that humanitarian aid for hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis affected by military offensives against al Qaeda-linked militants might cease because of scarce funds.

U.N. aid agencies in February launched a $537 million aid appeal for people impacted by the fighting between government forces and militants in the northwest of the country.

Martin Mogwanja, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Pakistan, said agencies had received $106 million, accounting for only around 20 percent of requested funds.

“We are concerned as the humanitarian community in Pakistan that the response from (the) international community is inadequate in terms of the resources provided,” he told a news conference.

“The humanitarian actors who are active on the ground responding to the needs of the vulnerable and displaced populations...are concerned that some of their projects and programs may have to be suspended due to lack of resources.”

He said many humanitarian agencies had reported that some projects will be closed or suspended and new ones, particularly related to the return of displaced people, might not be launched.

Pakistani security forces have stepped up assaults in the northwest over the past year, largely clearing militants from the Swat valley, northwest of Islamabad, and the South Waziristan and Bajaur regions on the Afghan border.

Fighting has intensified in recent weeks in Orakzai, Kurram and Khyber regions where officials said militants who fled the earlier sweeps had taken refuge.

While military successes have eased fears that nuclear-armed Pakistan, a vital ally for the United States as it struggles to stabilize Afghanistan, was sliding into chaos, the offensives have displaced a large number of people.

Currently, there are 1.3 million displaced people in Pakistan. Of these, over 125,000 are living in camps, said Mogwanja.

Some 200,000 people have been displaced by fighting in Orakzai and Kurram and many more were leaving their homes to safety, he said.

Health agencies had received only about five percent of requested funds, while those working on food and basic sanitation only about 25 percent. Food stocks were available only up to May.

Editing by Ron Popeski