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Little help for IDPs as violence spreads

Displaced families in Pakistan face tough times (file photo)
Les familles déplacées du Pakistan vivent dans des conditions difficiles (photo d’archives) (Tariq Mahmood/IRIN)

Thousands of people displaced in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) by fighting between Taliban militants and the Pakistan army have so far received limited help, aid agencies say.

People in Lower Dir District, west of the troubled Swat Valley but in NWFP, for instance, began leaving their homes last week as a result of the conflict.

“As per our information, 30,000-35,000 people have been displaced from here,” Ibrash Pasha, an NGO activist based in Dir, a town in NWFP’s Upper Dir District, told IRIN.

“The situation here is just appalling. There is no clean water, no cooking facilities and a lack of toilets,” said Azam Khan, who with his family of six is based at the Government Degree College in Timergara with some 140 other families. Timergara is the principal city of Lower Dir District.

“We really need help. We have been turned into beggars and the fighting means we cannot go home,” Khan told IRIN.

How many IDPs?

''We really need help. We have been turned into beggars and the fighting means we cannot go home.''

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Pakistan, as of 28 April there were 462,912 internally displaced persons (IDPs) outside camps in NWFP, and 93,627 at IDP camps.

But the IDP figures were constantly changing. “We registered 4,000 more displaced persons by 5 May,” the UNHCR office in Islamabad said.

The NGO Helping Hands Relief and Development told local media around 500 displaced families had taken shelter in four temporary camps in Lower Dir based around school or college buildings.

“The government is not only fully aware of the situation but also capable of meeting any challenge,” Jamil Ahmed of the Islamabad-based National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) told a meeting of aid agencies in Islamabad on 1 May.

However, a separate meeting of Pakistani politicans and NGOs in Geneva on 27 April indicated that unofficial local government estimates put the number of IDPs in NWFP at up to one million, with 80 percent not in camps. Participants expressed concern at the worsening humanitarian situation and its magnitude.

Ibrahim and his younger brothers and cousins are all eager to return to Swat

Kamila Hyat/IRIN
Ibrahim and his younger brothers and cousins are all eager to return to Swat
Monday, March 2, 2009
Propagation des violences – les déplacés ont besoin d’aide
Ibrahim and his younger brothers and cousins are all eager to return to Swat

Photo: Kamila Hyat/IRIN
Children are among the most vulnerable groups displaced by the conflict

Living with relatives

Many people are forced to live in cramped and squalid conditions with relatives far from their homes.

“We live in a three-room apartment in Peshawar [NWFP provincial capital] where 18 people are now crammed. My brother, his wife and their four children were already living here; now my family of eight and our younger brother’s of four has been forced to move from Swat and join them,” Aijaz Muhammad, 40, a resident of Peshawar, told IRIN.

Muhammad is wary of a recent peace deal between the government and Taliban leaders in Swat, saying it could collapse at any time. He said he was “too scared to move back”.

Aid efforts

Meanwhile, the UN is ramping up its humanitarian relief efforts in collaboration with the National Disaster Management Authority and NGOs. Around 1,000 families fleeing Buner and Dir districts for Jallozai camp near Peshawar have been given assistance. The camp currently accommodates some 7,800 families, most of them from the Bajaur Tribal Agency.

Two camps have been set up in Mardan and Swabi in the NWFP in preparation for the arrival of another 5,000 families displaced by fighting.

Asma Jahangir, one of Pakistan’s most prominent rights activists, said: “The government must do more to protect non-combatants in such situations. Tens of thousands have already been displaced.”

In their desperation, some of the IDPs from Dir and elsewhere have moved as far afield as Islamabad, where an IDP camp was set up in late 2008 by Mutahida Islahi Falahi Tanzeem (MIFT), a local NGO. Head of MIFT Khurshid Ali Khan said some 60 families were housed there, but more needed to be done to “provide basic facilities for these people”.

Latest reports indicate that the Pakistani authorities have begun urging people to leave Swat Valley, a move which some observers say portends a major government assault on militants there.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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