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Pakistan: ICRC returns to Swat and expands assistance in conflict-affected areas

04-06-2009 Operational Update

In the past few days the ICRC has returned to Swat, where the security situation remains volatile. Damage to civilian infrastructure is considerable in and near the main city, Mingora, where local residents were cut off from basic services for weeks.

   
  ©Reuters /F. Mahmood    
 
A family fleeing military operations in the Swat valley region.    
       
  ©Reuters /F. Mahmood    
 
A displaced family, including an injured boy, outside their tent at Yar Hussain camp in Swabi District.    
       
  ©Reuters /A. Latif    
 
Displaced children queue for curry and bread at Yar Hussain camp.    
      

Several checkpoints are in place along the main road leading into Swat valley, making the transportation of commodities difficult. Little food, for example, has so far reached Mingora. The harvest season will soon come to a close but many fields in the valley have not been tended for weeks. In recent days, some farmers have started to work in their fields again, often carrying a white flag. There are growing concerns, however, that crops could be lost. If that were to happen, there could be food shortages in the medium term.

On 31 May the ICRC started assessing the needs of tens of thousands of people still in the area. Residents have had little access to clean water, health services, electricity and telephone service since early May. Stocks in local markets are depleted and banks are closed. As a result of preliminary assessments, the ICRC is stepping up its activities considerably in Swat and in other conflict-affected areas such as Lower Dir.

In recent weeks, tens of thousands of residents have used temporary suspensions of the curfew put in place to flee Swat. Many families are currently staying with relatives in areas where few humanitarian organizations operate because of security concerns. Since these families are likely to return to their homes in the coming weeks and months, the ICRC plans to help them and local authorities to restore basic services such as the delivery of clean water to the area.

ICRC staff, including medical personnel, are currently in Mingora conducting further assessments, meeting local residents and authorities and delivering aid. The ICRC intends to coordinate its relief efforts from Mingora itself and is currentl y exploring the possibility of establishing a permanent office there.

The ICRC has also sent 31 trucks with food and other items for over 30,000 displaced people (IDPs) currently living in four camps near Timergara, in Lower Dir. The area had been off limits since the onset of hostilities. Each displaced family will receive a month's supply of food and other essentials.

The ICRC continues to support the emergency response of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, notably in its efforts to assist displaced people in Swabi and Malakand districts. The ICRC will substantially increase its level of support and its cooperation with the Pakistan Red Crescent in the coming days.

 
For further information, please contact:
  Sébastien Brack, ICRC Islamabad, tel: +92 300 850 81 38
  Sitara Jabeen, ICRC Islamabad, tel: +92 300 850 56 93
  Simon Schorno, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 251 93 02