Intensifying conflict in Pakistan’s Khyber Agency has forced more than a quarter of a million people to flee their homes since January, according to an international humanitarian agency.
Thousands of families, including over 100,000 children, have not got enough food, water or shelter, and are vulnerable to disease, stated a press release by Save the Children.
A Pakistani military operation against suspected militant groups in the remote area has prompted an exodus of families desperate to escape the fighting, with increasing numbers fleeing their homes for the relative safety of displacement camps and host families in neighbouring areas.
Over the past week, an estimated 60,000 people have arrived at a single camp in Jalozi and others have flooded into nearby towns and villages.
Hundreds of thousands more are expected to follow in coming weeks, but despite the huge numbers of people on the move, the crisis has attracted very little international attention.
“Thousands of children are arriving, many of them deeply distressed by the conflict,” said David Wright, country director Save the Children Pakistan.
Having fled for safety, their families are forced to choose between grim conditions in the camps or cramming into their relatives’ homes. They urgently need help.
“We are already seeing rates of disease rise in the camps, and conditions outside are reported to be even worse,” Wright added. The world needs to wake up fast to this escalating crisis.”
Save the Children expects to spend at least $9 million to help 200,000 of the most vulnerable children and their families.
The aid agency will provide healthcare and basic hygiene kits to protect families from disease outbreaks, and is setting up safe places for children to play to help them recover from difficult experiences.
The charity is also distributing life-saving and life-sustaining supplies such as shelter kits, blankets, food and water to those displaced by the fighting.
Most families are staying with relatives and friends in overcrowded households, which are already under strain following earlier crises.
The continuing military operations mean it is unlikely that they will be able to return home in the near future. Save the Children and other aid agencies are on the ground, but with so little international attention, raising enough money to fund the response may prove very difficult.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2012.