Pakistan: future uncertain for many displaced people returning home

30-07-2009 Operational Update

Most displaced people have returned home, but safety and access to basic services remain problematic for many. The ICRC continues to assist people affected by fighting, including those who remain displaced. It is seeking greater access to Swat, Buner and Dir.




© Reuters / Faisal M. Faisal    
Civilians displaced by fighting in the Swat Valley clear a checkpoint in the Malakand district. 
© Reuters / STR New    
An internally displaced woman waits patiently with her family as they prepare to return home. 
Most internally displaced people (IDPs) have returned home in recent weeks, but the future of many remains uncertain because of continuing fighting. " Fighting is still taking place in parts of Malakand Division, " said Benno Kocher, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Peshawar. " Despite substantial progress in some districts over the past few weeks, there remain areas where the population may not be safe and may not be able to obtain food, clean water and medical services. " The ICRC is seeking greater access to areas still affected by fighting, notably in Dir, to distribute emergency food rations and evacuate the wounded. " We hope to assist over 150,000 returnees in coming weeks, but our ability to do so will depend on the security on the ground and on access, " said Mr Kocher.
  More displacement in Dir  

In Dir district, fighting prompted about 7,000 people to flee Maidan and Bar Malakand last week. They are now living in schools and in already crowded camps in the Timergara area. Prices in the district for basic goods remain high owing to curfews and other restrictions on movement. The ICRC and the Pakistan Red Crescent Society are scrambling to assist the newly displaced.

The ICRC is also working closely with the Pakistan Red Crescent in Dir to provide food and other relief items for over 20,000 displaced people currently living in camps or with host families. In Gandigar camp, ICRC and Pakistan Red Crescent staff are building latrines and showers and upgrading the water supply system in an effort to provide decent living conditions for the disp laced. Many displaced families have lost touch with relatives because of the fighting. ICRC staff are offering to deliver messages for them or to let them make free telephone calls.
  Normality returns in parts of Swat
 The relatively stable situation in southern Swat has enabled most displaced people to return there. Life in Mingora, the district capital, is getting back to normal: whenever curfews are lifted, residents are able to purchase readily available food at decent prices and farmers are back to tending their fields. The security situation west of Mingora remains volatile, however. Many families hoping to return to villages there are choosing instead to remain in Mingora. The poor security has also generally prevented the ICRC from operating west of Mingora, although it did deliver medical supplies to the Kanju Pakistan Red Crescent basic health unit. The Pakistan Red Crescent is currently operating three ambulances throughout Swat which it uses to bring patients requiring urgent care to Mingora Hospital. One of these ambulances is fully equipped and staffed with medical doctors to treat patients in the field.
  ICRC discussing access to Buner district
 According to government sources, approximately 80% of those who fled Buner district have now returned. However, the security situation and economic environment in northern parts of the district remain problematic. The ICRC has not been able to go to the district for the past three weeks. It continues to discuss future operations in Buner with the authorities concerned.
  Ongoing assistance in Malakand
 In recent days, the ICRC and the Pakistan Red Crescent have brought aid to over 34,000 displaced people still living with host families. The ICRC has also delivered food and other items to about 6,000 people housed at Rangmala camp, which is managed by the Pakistan Red Crescent.
  Shah Mansoor camp empty
 The Pakistan Red Crescent/ICRC camp at Shah Mansoor, in Swabi district, housed over 20,000 people only 10 days ago. It is now empty. Families who left the camp were registered by the ICRC in case they need future assistance in their home areas.
  Casualties continue to arrive in Peshawar
 The ICRC hospital for the weapon-wounded in Peshawar has admitted 30 patients within the past week. There are now 73 patients in the hospital, where surgeons have recently performed 81 operations.
  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 Web site of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies