Pakistan fighting means international aid is vital, say NGOs

By Julia Collings
May 13, 2009

Pakistan could face one of the world’s worst conflict-driven people displacement crises and needs even more international help, warn development agencies, including the US-based Church World Service (CWS).

Around 300,000 people have registered at camps or other locations over the last few days as fighting between the Pakistan Army and the Taliban intensifies. This adds to the 500,000 already living in camps because of previous conflict, and could swell camp numbers to 800,000.

The authorities now estimate that the actual number of people displaced by the latest round of fighting is well in excess of 600,000.

Aid has begun to reach the area but even more help is needed, along with a safe and long-term solution to the problem, says Marvin Parvez, director of the CWS Pakistan / Afghanistan programme.

"Further commitment is needed. We can't leave people in limbo, facing hopelessness,” he said.

"This situation is a very serious threat to the people of Pakistan," Parvez added. "We want a quick end to this crisis so people can return to their homes. We call on all parties to the conflict to avoid civilian deaths and give safe passage for those civilians who are trapped."

Shama Mall, a CWS deputy director warned last week that the people affected "are under the open sky in a very insecure and unstable environment”.

"People have been forced to leave at short notice and their immediate needs are not being met,” she said. “Many have never had to leave their communities before and are afraid to do so.”

Church World Service is an ecumenical relief and development agency of the US churches.

Fikre Zewdie, director of ActionAid Pakistan said: "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."

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