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Pakistan: ICRC supports medical facilities in Waziristan

29-10-2009 Interview

The ICRC has no direct access to Waziristan or to the adjacent areas to which most of the population has fled. However, the organization is helping thousands of victims of the fighting through its indirect assistance to eight medical facilities inside Waziristan. An interview with the health delegate who has been running this support programme, Rosanna Magoga.

 

  ©ICRC    
 
  Rosanna Magoga, who has just returned from working as a health delegate in Pakistan, poses next to one of the vehicles the ICRC uses in the field.    
   What is this support programme all about?  

We set up the programme in late April, around the time military operations began in Malakand Division, because most analysts predicted that South Waziristan would be next. Access to the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has always been difficult, so we decided to assist existing ministry of health facilities rather than go in ourselves. We’ve been providing them with medicine and supplies for several months now, focusing on the most heavily-affected areas. In total, we’re supporting 24 facilities in the FATA, including eight in Waziristan. While we can’t get our own staff in there, we do speak to the doctors by phone every week to stay abreast of their needs.

 How do the doctors inside Waziristan describe the humanitarian situation?  

A sizeable population has stayed behind in South Waziristan, which is where the fighting is taking place. Exact numbers are impossible to come by; you can’t exactly conduct a census right now! But what we’re hearing from our contacts is that the people left behind are the poorest of the poor, those who couldn’t afford the extortionate prices that transporters are demanding at the moment. These people are caught up in the fighting, they are under constant curfew, and it’s very difficult for them to get food, health care or clean water.

 Given the conditions, how many patients are your eight partner facilities receiving?  

The facilities we’re supporting in South Waziristan inform us that they’re each receiving two or three patients with bullet or shrapnel wounds per day. And that’s despite the curfew, which suggests there are many more injured people who can’t get to them. This is a heavy caseload, especially since most of the staff have fled the fighting themselves. We greatly admire those dedicated doctors and nurses who have chosen to stay behind to help their communities. We’re providing them with medical supplies every month, in accordance with the needs they communicate to us.

 What difference would it make if the ICRC had direct access?  

We could do much more to treat the victims. We are getting supplies in, but only on a limited scale. If we had access, we could provide far more medicine and equipment. In addition, we could reinforce the health teams on the ground with our own doctors and nurses.