UN foresees quarter of a million IDPs from Pakistan offensive

Written by: James Kilner

Girls fleeing a military offensive in South Waziristan wait for their families at an IDP registration point in Dera Ismail Khan, October 2009. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood.
Girls fleeing a military offensive in South Waziristan wait for their families at an IDP registration point in Dera Ismail Khan, October 2009. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood.

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LONDON (AlertNet) – Up to 250,000 people may eventually flee an area in Pakistan where the military has launched an air and ground offensive against Taliban militants, the United Nations has said. A report by the U.N.’s disaster response office said that over 106,000 people had already fled from South Waziristan, a remote and mountainous region bordering Afghanistan. Most of the people have moved into the two neighbouring regions of Tank and Dera Ismail Khan where the army has given access to some local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who are handing out emergency supplies. “Humanitarian access remains very restricted,” the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) wrote in its latest report. “For security reasons access will be denied for U.N. agencies and international NGOs.” OCHA said the displaced people needed food, water, sanitation facilities and shelter. South Waziristan has become a global hub for militants who were launching increasingly brazen bomb attacks in Pakistani cities. The United States and NATO are fighting the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan. Around 80,000 people had fled South Waziristan before the new offensive began. “The humanitarian community estimates that over 170,000 people will be displaced as a result of the new military operations, which could bring the total number of IDPs to up to 250,000,” OCHA wrote. IDPs are internally displaced people — people who flee a disaster or conflict but do not leave their country. UNICEF, the U.N.’s children organisation, said that most of the people who had fled from South Waziristan were living with friends or family. “The government has not established any camps as yet,” UNICEF said in a statement. And they were some of the most vulnerable in Pakistan, the group’s deputy executive director, Fiona Hesselden, also said. “The displaced families come from one of the poorest areas of Pakistan and children are particularly vulnerable,” she said in the UNICEF statement. “Families have minimal resources and they urgently need safe water, clothing, food and health care.” Earlier this year, the army recaptured the Swat Valley close to Islamabad from militants in heavy fighting that forced about 2 million people to flee the area, one of the biggest emergency relief operations in the world this year.

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