Thousands at risk as families flee Pakistan conflict

By Oxfam

As thousands of families continue to flee their homes in northwest Pakistan amid clashes between government forces and organized armed groups, Oxfam has begun providing emergency relief to around 175,000 women, men, and children in urgent need of assistance.

"We're seeing a flood of families arriving from the conflict area, carrying whatever possessions they could bring," said Neva Khan, Oxfam country director in Pakistan.

"The provincial authorities and aid agencies are working hard to cope with the huge influx. But with clashes continuing and thousands more families on their way, much more needs to be done—especially to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, such as women and girls.

"The lack of sufficient water and sanitation facilities is causing problems for many people. With the current hot temperatures set to rise and torrential monsoon rains just six weeks away, the risks of illness and disease are rising fast. The Pakistani authorities, donors, and aid agencies need to respond quickly and effectively to prevent further suffering."

Working closely with local partner organizations, Oxfam is providing essential items and services, such as water and sanitation facilities and health information, not only to people in camps but also to those staying in cramped, difficult conditions with host families whose resources are already overstretched.

"Although they are less visible, around three-quarters of displaced people have sought refuge outside camps. We need to ensure that they are not neglected," said Neva Khan.

More than 360,000 people have registered in camps and special centers for displaced people in recent weeks, with another 200,000 estimated to be on their way following renewed fighting between government forces and armed groups in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province.

This latest exodus comes amid renewed fighting between Pakistani government forces and armed groups and is in addition to more than 550,000 people who have fled their homes since August 2008 to escape previous clashes. Oxfam assisted more than 15,000 women, men, and children who fled their homes in NWFP after battles erupted in the region last year.

Scores of civilians have reportedly been killed or injured in recent weeks of clashes and many thousands more have lost their homes and livelihoods.

An estimated 200,000 civilians are thought to be trapped in areas where intense fighting continues. The humanitarian community has no access to these populations. Oxfam calls on all sides in the conflict to take special care to avoid harming non-combatants and to allow humanitarian workers safe access to assist civilians affected by the conflict wherever they are.

Oxfam also calls on the international community to support efforts by the government and aid agencies to provide displaced civilians with emergency relief as well as plans to help them return to their communities to rebuild their homes and livelihoods.

Aiming to reach the most vulnerable women, men, and children, Oxfam has been providing humanitarian relief and development in Pakistan for more than 35 years.

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