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AmeriCares Report from the Field
As violence grows between Pakistan’s government and Taliban militants, it is estimated that as many as 1.8 million innocent people will be forced to flee their homes. The bloody conflict has now spread beyond the embattled Swat Valley to the rest of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) in Pakistan.
An AmeriCares emergency relief worker on the ground reports back with harrowing news from the refugee camps where thousands of families seek shelter. Here he shares his thoughts and impressions from the field.
Pakistan’s displaced people are in constant danger until they reach safety outside the conflict area. More arrive at the camps everyday, fearful from the turmoil and exhausted from their long journey. Many left family members behind. Some were in such extreme danger that had to escape before they could bury their dead relatives in order to save their own lives.
The journey to the camps is long and hard for everyone, but especially for mothers and their frightened children. There is no food or shelter along the way. Families also have to abandon their cattle – their only source of income. The transportation system has completely collapsed. Gas stations in conflict areas are completely out of fuel and have all closed. There are no busses or cars. Tens of thousands of people have no choice but to walk for days to reach safety.
Sadly, many of these weary people have been injured in the conflict. Some even have open wounds from the bombing. Others walked barefoot for over 30 miles from the war zone that was once their home, their feet raw and covered with cuts.
Once families arrive at the camps, they must wait in long lines for food and medical care under the hot sun. Temperatures are near 100 degrees Fahrenheit every day. To make matters worse, some of the refugees are used to cool, mountainous weather and are very sensitive to the heat.
It is encouraging to see local aid organizations so successful in getting aid directly to the people most in need, but they desperately require more supplies. The next shipment of medicines, medical supplies and other aid from the AmeriCares emergency relief warehouse is anxiously awaited.
Hopefully the conflict will be resolved quickly, but I fear that we must be prepared for a long period of difficulty for the people of Pakistan. Thank you for your support and concern.