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Pakistan: ICRC assists Waziri displaced for first time

06-08-2009 Operational Update

This week, the ICRC and the Pakistan Red Crescent Society are providing food and other essential items for over 2,500 people who have fled Waziristan. Humanitarian operations in NWFP and other parts of the country are ongoing.

" The fighting in Waziristan has resulted in displacement, but our ability to assist the population in the district itself is affected by a difficult security environment, " said Benno Kocher, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Peshawar. " That is why we have opened an office in Bhakkar, on the east bank of the Indus, from which we can step in to help those in need at short notice. "

While many Waziris seeking to escape the aftermath of the fighting are reportedly staying with relatives or in their own " winter homes " in Dera Ismail Khan, the most vulnerable have been forced to flee further, some of them to Baluchistan. There, many have found refuge with relatives or rented their own accommodation. Some have had to move into a small camp recently set up in Zhob. As in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), going to a camp is a last resort for internally displaced people (IDPs) who have run out of alternatives.

In the past few days, the ICRC has delivered food and other essential goods to about 2,500 displaced people in and around Zhob and Killasaifuallah, in Baluchistan, in a bid to stave off further impoverishment.

" These people are running down their savings, " explained Imran Mehmood, the ICRC's field officer overseeing the operation. " With this aid distribution, we are trying to prevent them from selling their possessions to purchase basic necessities. "

  Dir
 

In agreement with the authorities, the ICRC and the Pakistan Red Crescent are setting up a new camp, Khungi Sha, for internally displaced people in Timergar a. The aim is to free up schools, which have hosted many displaced people over the last few months, so that they can admit students for the new academic year which started this week. The camp could eventually host up to 4,000 people. Part of the infrastructure and equipment used in Swabi Camp, which has now closed, will be transferred directly to Timergara. The ICRC stands ready to open more camps should the need arise owing to new arrivals from Maidan, Bar Malakand and Upper Dir.

Even though the security situation remains volatile, the ICRC and the Pakistan Red Crescent managed to distribute food and soap to almost 20,000 displaced people in Dir this week, most of whom are staying with host families. ICRC staff toured several camps in the district to identify new arrivals, better understand the problems they face and give them the opportunity to make free phone calls to relatives.

  Swat
 

The return to the areas south and east of Mingora has involved more people and occurred more quickly than expected. Even though the situation in the district capital and the surrounding area has improved, it remains tense and security is volatile. Markets have re-opened. Food, including fruits and vegetables, is available, and prices are falling as more goods trickle in. However, most local residents missed this year's wheat harvest and many of the returning displaced people ran down their savings while they were away. Movement into and out of Swat remains difficult. Many families in Mingora are still waiting to return to their homes in western parts of the district that remain inaccessible because of the security situation west of the Swat River.

The ICRC continues to provide food and medicine to the Saidu Sharif Central Hospital in Mingora and to support the Pakistan Red Crescent's health work in the area. The Pakistan Red Crescent is now running a medical fa cility in Kanju Township, across the river, which treats about 400 patients a day. Many are brought in by three Red Crescent ambulances. Together with their mobile medical unit, which carries doctors and essential medical equipment to the field, the Pakistan Red Crescent is providing basic health care for around 100,000 people in Kanju and 12 nearby villages.

The ICRC is concerned not only about the plight of those who have come back to Swat without being able to return to their homes, but also about the hundreds of thousands of Swatis living west of the river in volatile areas still under curfew. They have been cut off from the rest of the district for about three months and are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

  Buner
 

The ICRC was able to return to the district this week. ICRC delegates observed that many displaced people had returned. The delegates also visited a new camp in Daggar, built in response to new displacement from an area where fighting is currently taking place. The people in the camp, who fled their homes and lost their livelihoods, are in urgent need of assistance.

  Malakand
 

The ICRC is continuing to provide support for the large number of displaced people in the district, most of whom have opted for living arrangements outside camps. The organization distributed food and other essential goods, including soap, to over 30,000 displaced people this week, including many newly displaced from volatile parts of Lower Dir. The bulk of the ICRC's assistance is provided in the places where most displaced people have chosen to go.

  Peshawar
 

The ICRC Surgical Hospital   admitted 23 new weapon-wounded patients over the last week. The ICRC also continues to support a programme run by the Pakistan Institute of Prosthetic and Orthotic Sciences in Peshawar (Hayatabad).

  Swabi Camp
 

By 29 July, Shah Mansoor Camp, the only camp for the displaced run directly by the ICRC in conjunction with the Pakistan Red Crescent, was empty. Its population of almost 20,000 left within two weeks. Most of them have returned to the districts they came from, though some have been unable to reach their homes. Nearly 3,000 have been transferred to Jalala Camp. Some displaced people have opted to move into private housing or accept accommodation with host families instead.

  Raising awareness of mine hazards
 

Over the past week, more than 10,000 displaced people in camps have been informed about the dangers of mines and other explosive remnants of war in order to reduce the risk of accidents when they return to their homes. Reports indicate that unexploded munitions are a genuine problem in NWFP, where accidents are frequent.

 
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
 See also: the website of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies