October 16, 2009
The U.N. refugee agency reports thousands of people are fleeing Pakistan’s South Waziristan region in anticipation of military operations against insurgents. U.N. agencies estimate more than 100,000 people have become displaced since May.
Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province is awash with homeless people who fled the fighting between government troops and Taliban militants.
The most dramatic exodus occurred earlier this year when more than two million people fled their homes in the Swat Valley.
UNHCR spokesman, Andrej Mahecic, says his agency does not expect an outflow of people on that scale from Waziristan. Nevertheless, he says a substantial number of people are fleeing to safer regions.
“In recent days, local authorities have begun registering new arrivals, with more than 800 families registered over the past three days out of an estimated 2,000 families that have moved into that area,” he said.
“While some of the movement from South Waziristan may be seasonal migration, most families say they are fleeing expected bombardments. If full-scale military operations are launched, the numbers of displaced people are likely to rise significantly,” he added.
Mahecic says most of the displaced are staying with host families or have rented rooms. He says the UNHCR is working with local partners to distribute relief supplies, such as plastic sheets, sleeping mats, jerry cans and kitchen sets to displaced people from South Waziristan.
In the meantime, spokesman for the World Health Organization, Paul Garwood, says medical supplies in the region are insufficient.
“Water supplies to health facilities are reaching only 42 percent of these health facilities,” he said. “So, there is a great lack of water. Medical staff, particularly female health staff, are in short number and the health cluster has received only 37 percent of funding requested,” he stressed.
The U.N. agencies say the deteriorating situation in Pakistan continues to hinder their humanitarian operations in the country. In addition, they say they have had to adjust their operations in the wake of attacks on U.N. staff and general insecurity.