News / Asia

North Waziristan Fighting Triggers Humanitarian Crisis

People, who fled the military offensive against Pakistani militants in North Waziristan, line up to receive food supply from the army in Bannu, in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, June 25, 2014.
People, who fled the military offensive against Pakistani militants in North Waziristan, line up to receive food supply from the army in Bannu, in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, June 25, 2014.
Ayaz Gul
x

Pakistan's military claims to have killed more than 330 suspected terrorists in its ongoing counter-militancy air and artillery offensive in the North Waziristan district on the Afghan border. However, the army action that began nearly two weeks ago has forced nearly half-a-million people, mostly women and children, to flee to safety. The humanitarian crisis is likely to grow as Pakistani ground troops are readying to take part in the action.

​A military spokesman says the anti-militancy strikes in the Waziristan region are hitting “all groups of terrorists without any discrimination.” He told reporters Thursday that ground troops will not be involved in the action until all civilians are evacuated from the conflict zone. The spokesman added that special announcements are being made to encourage the population to leave the area as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, thousands of displaced people with their belongings piled high on buses, tractors and donkey carts continue to pour out of North Waziristan. Most are ending up in host communities or renting houses around the nearby town of Bannu. So far only a few hundred have taken shelter in government set-up relief camps.
 
Lola Castro, head of the World Food Program in Pakistan, says the agency is rapidly scaling up food distribution for the displaced people. She tells VOA her organization, with the help of local authorities and civil society groups, has already provided urgent food rations to more than 4,500 families to meet their needs for the next two weeks.
 
“We are talking about 455,000 new people which mostly are women and children in fact and it is important the humanitarian community continues being able to access the areas so that we can all do their job and not to disturb the livelihoods of the people and they can settle well,” she said.

The United States on Thursday announced it has contributed an additional $8 million to help Pakistan's government meet the food and nutritional needs of the internally displaced people from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.  
 
Maryam Bibi’s charity group Khwendo Kor, (which means "Sister's Home" in Pashto)  is among the first few organizations that began assisting official relief efforts in Bannu. Bibi says the displaced people, women and children in particular, are facing extremely tough conditions as they move out of Waziristan.  
 
“What I saw, for 40, 50 kilometers, barefooted women and children had come down and they showed me their feet, which were all wounded and swollen. Pregnant women also had to walk all that [distance]," she said. "So, it is really a very, very heartbreaking situation when you look at women and children, elderly and sick.”
 
Bibi says though authorities are ensuring food and cash are given to the displaced, meeting their long-term needs seems to be a daunting challenge.

“It is a massive humanitarian crisis and I think because the realization is not there, the preparedness is not there and also at the same time you know a strategy is not in place," she said. "So, I think the situation will exacerbate if on emergency basis, on urgent basis, action is not taken.”
 
The militant-stronghold North Waziristan tribal region is also considered one of the world’s last reservoirs of polio virus. Pakistani authorities, with the help of the World Health Organization, are taking advantage of the civilian exodus to immunize tens of thousands of children and adults against the crippling disease to try to prevent it from spreading throughout Pakistan.

Federal Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch, who is supervising the relief operations, says, “We have made sure that every individual coming out of that place is given the polio drops and we will follow it up wherever they are and they will be given the next dose.”

The militants have not allowed authorities to conduct polio vaccination campaigns in the tribal area, leading to outbreaks of the virus. Out of more than 80 cases in Pakistan this year, 53 were recorded in North Waziristan.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid