Pakistan: food finally begins to reach displaced people in conflict-affected Buner
20-05-2009 News Release 09/105
Islamabad/Geneva (ICRC) – As people continue to flee Swat, Buner and other conflict areas in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has distributed food to over 8,000 displaced people (IDPs) in the southern part of Buner, a district that has been hit hard by the conflict and that remains off limits to most humanitarian organizations.
" Three weeks ago, the army imposed a curfew on my village, and fighting broke out all around, " said Ruhksar. " We were so scared. Within a week, we had run out of food, and there was no more electricity or running water. When the army lifted the curfew, my family and I left. Some people were offering places on buses, but at extortionate rates, so we had to walk. We finally arrived here in Totalai after 12 hours on foot. One of my father's relatives has taken us in, along with five other families. "
Ruhksar is only one of tens of thousands of people who have fled Swat and northern Buner for southern Buner district. They are living on scant resources either in rented accommodation or with host families. They are beyond the reach of the massive humanitarian effort under way elsewhere in the NWFP.
" We are seeing that displaced people prefer not to go into the camps being set up for them further south if they can avoid it, " explained Sheikh Ali, the head of the ICRC's economic security programme in Pakistan. " They want to stay as close as possible to their homes and fields. We have to respect their preferences. "
As a result of the ongoing fighting in the NWFP, farmers are no longer able to work their fields and local food production has slumped. The commercial supply lines have been interrupted and goods are scarce.
ICRC staff distributed food packages to uprooted people and their host families in five southern Buner locations, including in Totalai, where many displaced people now find themselves. A standard ICRC food package consists of a month's supply of wheat flour, rice, split pe as, ghee, sugar, tea and salt. The distribution followed an assessment made last week in Buner by the ICRC and the Pakistan Red Crescent Society.
The ICRC is supporting the Pakistan Red Crescent in its response to the displacement crisis, notably by providing clean water and sanitation and health services in its camps in the Malakand and Swabi districts.
For further information, please contact:
Sitara Jabeen, ICRC Peshawar, tel: +92 300 850 56 93
Sébastien Brack, ICRC Islamabad, tel: +92 300 850 81 38
Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18