Date: 12 May 2009
Pakistan needs international help to cope with the hundreds of thousands of people who are fleeing the fighting between government and Taliban forces in northwest Pakistan, ActionAid said today.
Fikre Zewdie, director of ActionAid Pakistan said: “More than 800,000 people could soon be living in camps or waiting for places in them. People urgently need food, water, shelter, sanitation and health care. The fighting could continue for a longer period, so they will not be going home soon. Pakistan cannot handle a crisis on this scale without international help.”
ActionAid staff are now in the field assessing the situation so that ActionAid can respond appropriately and effectively to help those in need. The exodus began when government forces began operations against the Taliban in Swat and neighbouring districts last week. The temporary lifting of a curfew on Sunday 10 May allowed many more people to leave.
About 360,000 displaced people have now registered with the authorities, in camps or other locations, in Swabi, Mardan, Charsadda and Kohat districts. But many more are waiting to register or still on the move. Authorities in Mardan estimate that altogether 600,000 to 800,000 people have been displaced by the latest fighting. The majority are expected to find rented accommodation or stay with relatives. But accommodation in the towns is becoming scarce. Aid agencies estimate that 300,000 will come to the camps, where 560,000 are already living because of earlier fighting in tribal areas. This could swell the camp population to more than 800,000.
People are queuing in very hot weather for tents or shelters, often fruitlessly. Water, medicine and sanitation facilities are very scarce and people are becoming increasingly agitated. The registration process requires identity documents, but some people left home too hurriedly to bring these with them and many, particularly women, do not have ID cards in the first place. —ENDS—
For more information, or to interview ActionAid staff in the field, contact Tony Durham, +44 (0)20 7561 7636, mobile 07872 378251