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ICRC Brings Aid to Thousands of Displaced Pakistani


The International Committee of the Red Cross says it plans to deliver large quantities of food and non-food items to thousands of Pakistanis who have fled fighting in Bajaur tribal region near the Pakistan-Afghan border. The Red Cross says fighting between Pakistani government forces and armed opposition groups has displaced more than 200,000 people. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from ICRC headquarters in Geneva.

The International Committee of the Red Cross reports about 80 percent of those who have fled from Bajaur Agency are women and children. It says most of the men have remained behind to try to keep their livelihoods and to secure their property.

The mass movement of people began a few weeks ago as fighting intensified between Pakistani troops and armed opposition groups in this al-Qaida and Taliban stronghold.

The Red Cross began its humanitarian operation for displaced people about a week ago. Spokeswoman Carla Haddad says the agency plans to assist about 60,000 of them.

She says many of these people are living with family and friends along the Pakistan-Afghan border. She says most of the host families are very poor. Their generosity is putting an additional burden on their limited resources.

She says thousands of people are living in so-called camps. "They are not camps as such," said Haddad. "They are public buildings surrounded by tents and so it is enlarged and in some cases, you have 5,000 people in a school."

"So there are problems linked to absence of latrines, absence of anything necessary. I mean basic necessities are lacking. And, we know that the government has made some assistance, but it is limited in the sense that if the people stay in these areas, they will need to have more support and assistance," she added.

The displaced people are staying in lower Dir and Mardan, two tribal areas in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province. About 25,000 people are living in 23 camps in lower Dir.

Haddad says the ICRC and Pakistani Red Crescent are helping people in six of these camps. She says they are the largest and most in need of urgent assistance.

The situation in Marden is different. She says the displaced there are largely living with host families. She says they are scattered in the areas and an assessment team is in the process of tracking their whereabouts.

Haddad says the situation in the tribal areas is very volatile and sporadic fighting is making it difficult for aid workers to move around and see what is happening on the ground.

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