10 July 2009
Michael Von Bergen/ICRCTorrential rains will present serious health risks to thousands of the people who have fled fighting in Pakistan, as the monsoon season approaches.
As well as increasing the risk of disease in overcrowded host communities, the threat of flooding means the Red Cross is preparing to move thousands of people to higher ground.
At Shah Mansoor camp in Swabi, home to 20,000 people who have fled the Swat valley region, staff are looking to move around 70 per cent of the camp to new locations.
Robert Przedpelski, camp manager at Swabi camp, said: “The monsoon is the top priority for me at the moment. We don’t know exactly when the rains will come, but we are aiming to have everything in place within the next two weeks. The ground has to be levelled, then we need to build latrines and wells. It’s a lot of work, but we’re working flat out and I have a very good water and sanitation team on the job. In the meantime we must continue with the everyday work of the camp.”
The UN estimates around 2.5 million people, the equivalent to the entire population of the Greater Manchester area, have been forced to flee the Swat and Dir regions. Local communities, who are thought to be hosting around 80 per cent of the displaced population, could be seriously affected by the coming monsoon season.
Gregory Rose, British Red Cross health advisor for Eurasia, said: “Overcrowding in the affected communities is putting a huge strain on shared water and sanitation facilities. Add to that the threat of contamination from flooding and the resulting run-off into local water sources, and there will almost certainly be increases in childhood diarrhoea which, with no guarantees of health services, means children will die.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Pakistan Red Crescent are providing help including emergency shelter, medical aid, food and other provisions to both those displaced and those trapped by the fighting. The ICRC is currently the only international aid agency able to operate in the Swat Valley and Dir regions.
The British Red Cross has launched an urgent appeal to help civilians who have fled their homes and those still trapped by the fighting in Pakistan ahead of this month’s monsoon season.
The money raised through the appeal will help the Red Cross provide food, basic household items and critical medical services, not only to those in camps but also to the civilian population trapped in areas no other agencies are reaching.
Read more about our appeal