International agency Oxfam said today that it has had to double its aid effort in Pakistan as the number of displaced goes over 2 million, making the crisis the greatest internal displacement of people in the country's history.
The agency had previously planned for a £2.2 million (about $3.4 million) program reaching 175,000 people. Now, as the numbers of people needing urgent assistance mounts, Oxfam has boosted its efforts to a £5.3 million (about $8.29 million) program reaching 360,000 people with clean water and sanitation, food and public hygiene information.
"We've been seeing thousands of families continuing to flee their homes, many walking great distances to find food, water, medicine, shelter and other essential items. This is now a massive humanitarian crisis. We have never witnessed such huge numbers of people fleeing conflict inside Pakistan before. With the Pakistani authorities and aid agencies already severely stretched, a further influx could turn this crisis into a catastrophe," said Neva Khan, Oxfam country director in Pakistan.
Yesterday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a $110 million commitment in emergency aid for displaced Pakistani civilians. This is in addition to the nearly $60 million the United States has provided to Pakistan since last August.
"The announcement is critical as we now have a full blown humanitarian crisis on our hands. The international community needs to follow suit and recognize the urgency of the situation in Pakistan. If we do not act fast, this crisis will overwhelm the aid effort already struggling to cope," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America.
Since the fighting started in April, more than 1.5 million people have fled their homes, bringing the total number of those displaced by conflict to over two million since August of last year. While many are housed in official camps, most are staying with host families, with large numbers in temporary shelters such as schools or spontaneous camps. It is estimated that nearly half of those displaced are children.
Conditions in official camps are still extremely difficult with shortages of essential items, including food, water, sanitation facilities, shelter and health care.
Oxfam is concerned about people staying with host families. They are less visible than people in camps but have urgent needs, so special efforts are required to ensure they are not neglected. Conditions in spontaneous camps are very poor. They are scattered across the region and harder to assist, but local people and organizations are generously providing help. Displaced women and girls are especially vulnerable wherever they find themselves.