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Pakistan: ICRC priming itself to address escalating humanitarian crisis

07-05-2009 News Release 09/92

Islamabad/Geneva (ICRC) – The humanitarian crisis in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) is intensifying, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned today.

The ICRC said that although figures remain unverifiable at this stage, reports indicated that up to 500,000 Pakistanis have been recently displaced by conflict in Dir, Buner and Swat.

" We can no longer reach the areas most affected by the fighting on account of the volatile situation, " said Benno Kocher, who is running the ICRC's operations in NWFP out of Peshawar. " But we are aiming to return and meet the needs of the newly displaced population as soon as possible. "

The ICRC and the Pakistan Red Crescent Society are currently marshaling their resources to be able to provide 120,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) affected by the fighting with food and essential relief items. The ICRC also hopes to be able to provide basic heath care for about 30,000 displaced people. Its recently inaugurated 60-bed surgical hospital in Peshawar is scaling up its capacity to be able to receive up to 100 weapon-wounded patients at a time. The organization has also been in daily contact with hospitals in Timmergarah, Mardan and Swat to find out about their needs and discuss possible ways of providing support.

" The ICRC calls upon the parties to the conflict to comply with international humanitarian law – in particular, to take all feasible precautions to minimize civilian casualties, " said the ICRC's head of delegation in Islamabad, Pascal Cuttat. " Civilians displaced by the fighting have a right to receive assistance to cover their basic needs, such as food, water, shelter and medical care. Humanitarian organizations like the ICRC must be given safe and unimpeded access to the affected population. "

The ICRC h as been gradually stepping up its activities in Pakistan's NWFP and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) since September 2008 to help the growing number of victims of the armed conflict under way between the State and armed opposition groups. Before the most recent fighting broke out last week, the ICRC was already assisting up to 100,000 displaced people in NWFP and FATA, both independently and together with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, its primary partner.

For more information, please contact:
  Sébastien Brack, ICRC Islamabad, Tel. +92 300 850 81 38
  Sitara Jabeen, ICRC Islamabad, Tel. +92 300 850 56 93
  Florian Westphal, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 22 82 or +41 79 217 32 80