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Pakistan: conflict leaves tens of thousands in dire need of aid

22-08-2008 News Release 08/154

Islamabad / Geneva (ICRC) – Armed conflict has intensified recently in Bajaur Agency on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, leaving more than 200,000 displaced people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has launched a relief operation to help 64,000 of them, on both sides of the border.

'' In recent days, large numbers of civilians – mainly women and children – were forced to flee their homes in Bajaur Agency for relatively safer areas in the North West Frontier Province and other tribal agencies,'' said Pascal Cuttat, the ICRC’s head of delegation in Pakistan.'' Despite the efforts of local authorities and NGOs, these displaced people are in urgent need of basic necessities such as food, clean water and shelter. Lack of medical care is a problem for sick people, particularly children.''

Together with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, the ICRC has delivered medical supplies to the hospitals receiving the bulk of the injured, in and around the conflict-affected areas. Blankets, jerrycans, clothing, tarpaulins, soap, washbasins and buckets are being distributed to approximately 50,000 displaced persons. Food is also on its way for the displaced population. Joint ICRC and Pakistan Red Crescent teams are on the ground to assess the needs.

'' Some people have found refuge with host families who themselves are poor and are now depleting their resources by feeding more people. For these families, obtaining enough food is the main problem. Some larger families have also had to deal with overcrowding in their homes after taking in displaced people. We are therefore helping both the displaced in host communities and those sheltering in public buildings'' said Cuttat.

'' In Kunar province in Eastern Afghanistan, the ICRC is planning to deliver eme rgency food and non-food aid to close to 14,000 displaced people who have fled Bajaur Agency in Pakistan,'' said Franz Rauchenstein, ICRC head of delegation in Afghanistan.

The ICRC reminds all those involved in the armed conflict of their obligation to comply with international humanitarian law. In particular, they must ensure that the civilian population is respected and protected in all circumstances and take all feasible precautions to spare civilians from the effects of hostilities. They must also allow the delivery of emergency relief and medical supplies for people in need.

The ICRC is an independent and neutral humanitarian organization. It has been working in Pakistan since 1981 and currently employs 427 staff in the country. The ICRC maintains regular contact with all parties to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches those who need it most. It continues to help medical facilities along the Afghan-Pakistan border to treat people wounded by fighting.

 
For further information, please contact :
  Marco Succi, ICRC Islamabad, tel: +92 300 850 81 38
  Sitara Jabeen, ICRC Islamabad, tel: +92 300 850 56 93
  Carla Haddad, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 2405 or +41 79 217 3226