I saw the birth of the Talebans in early 1994 when I lived in Afghanistan and had to work closely with them in order to get assistance to vulnerable communities in remote parts of Afghanistan. Then when 9/11 occured, I was back in Pakistan heading a large operation for Afghan refugees who fled into Pakistan. Again in October 2005, it was a disaster of a different kind, a huge eathquake in northern Pakistan, killing 80,000 people. And over the past we have witnessed another huge humanitarian crisis in Pakistan that I followed through a blog of a young teenage Pakistani women who recorded the horrors unfolding on her blog from the Swat valley on the BBC website. Today, modern technology allows you to read the terror first hand. If anything, it makes me feel more helpless when I read of a young woman caught in the crossfire of a major battle and sees people being killed and murdered all around her. I suppose what warms my heart is I know the Pakistan Red Crescent, the ICRC and the IFRC are doing everything possible to assist the displaced people.
My good friend Joe Lowry writes : "One of the biggest exoduses of modern times is under way in Pakistan. Two and a half million people have been displaced - a dozen times the populaiton of Geneva, and yet we hear relativley little about their plight in this "little Switzerland". Check out this blog
The International Committee of the Red Cross yesterday (31 May) gained access to Swat valley for the first time since hostilities began. Their team reported hospitals lacking the barest necessities - we're talking without water or electricity - in an area where people are most likely receiving horrific injures, and suffering from food shortages and waterborne diseases.
Nothing is getting in, not even the spoken word, as phone lines are down. Mingora has obviously been a scene of carnage. The footage coming out evokes Mogadishu, and the "theatre" must be as dangerous for the aid workers going in as it was in Somalia back in the early 90s. To them, chapeau, and sincerest wishes for their continued safety.
On the 3rd of June we got this statement from the UN.
Without the contribution of urgently-needed funds, the United Nations and its partners will only be able to feed the 2.6 million Pakistanis forced to flee clashes between the Government and militants for the next month or two, it was announced today.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the world body has less than half of the $280 million sought to meet the food needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Pakistan.
In addition, the $543 million Humanitarian Action Plan launched late last month is only 22 per cent funded. OCHA also warned that current stocks of essential drugs will run out by the end of this month. There is already a shortage of hygiene kits and soap in all camps housing some 200,000 of the uprooted, it added.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said today that the portion of the Action Plan dedicated to health needs is only 11 per cent funded.
There is a high risk of communicable disease outbreaks due to overcrowding, contaminated water, poor sanitation and inadequate health care provision, among other factors, WHO said, cautioning that a funding shortfall will impede abilities to protect people from disaster.
This is a tragic situation and I hope and pray the Red Cross /Red Crescent and the UN save the situation worsening.