17 June 2009
REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood/Courtesy www.alernet.orgAs the monsoon season threatens to make conditions worse, the British Red Cross has launched an urgent appeal to help civilians affected by the fighting in Pakistan. As the conflict in the Swat Valley and Lower Dir region continues, thousands more people have joined the 2.5 million who have already fled their homes with the bare minimum of belongings. Some camps are now at full capacity, forcing new arrivals to pitch tents or makeshift shelters along roadsides and on any available land. Meanwhile, the civilians still caught in the fighting are virtually cut off from basic healthcare, food and water.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) 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 aid agency able to operate in the Swat Valley and Dir regions.
Urgent funding needed
Despite generous support received so far, the Red Cross still needs an extra £37 million, as there is no sign of an end to the fighting and conditions for civilians are deteriorating.
Ros Armitage, British Red Cross conflict operations manager, said: “The monsoon season begins in July, and here we have a situation where thousands upon thousands of people are living with host families or in tents, or shelters made from whatever materials they can lay their hands on.
"The money raised through the new appeal will help the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement provide food, basic household items and critical medical services, not only to those in camps but those with host families and also to the civilian population trapped in the conflict areas, where no other agencies are reaching.”
Red Cross/Red Crescent response
This is the largest and fastest growing displacement in 15 years. Up to 120,000 people are living in camps but the vast majority are dispersed throughout North West Frontier Province and other parts of the country, staying with relatives or in rented accommodation, creating an economic burden on host communities.
The Pakistan Red Crescent, with support from the ICRC, is running nine camps for displaced people, including the Shah Mansoor camp in Swabi which hosts 20,000 people. In Peshawar, the ICRC surgical hospital is providing critical assistance to victims of the conflict.
The Movement has stepped up its support considerably and plans to help at least 380,000 displaced people in the coming weeks and months in the area affected by conflict and those who have fled from the conflict.
Find out more about the Pakistan crisis