The current Pakistani military offensive against militants in the North Waziristan tribal region has forced thousands of people to flee their homes in the past two weeks, seeking shelter in neighbouring Afghanistan, the United Nations refugee agency said.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said more than 75,000 people have fled their homes over the past two weeks, many with very few possessions, as the military offensive continues in troubled North Waziristan region.
In addition to those who have fled across the border, the Pakistani government estimates that the latest fighting has left some 470,000 people internally displaced.
While UNHCR, the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners are working to coordinate relief efforts and deliver assistance, “sanitation, clean drinking water and medical care are in short supply.”
Local communities are helping the displaced but the already scarce resources are now reaching capacity, UNHCR said in a statement on Wednesday.
The agency stressed that humanitarian assistance is urgently needed to support the host communities in Khost and Paktika provinces in sustaining the level of assistance they have been providing to displaced families.
UNHCR’s Country Representative in Afghanistan Bo Schack and UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan Mark Bowden visited the eastern province of Khost along with Afghan government officials to see first-hand the situation of thousands of Pakistanis who have arrived after fleeing the fighting in their homeland.
Since the cross-border movement began in mid-June, a number of UN agencies and their humanitarian partners have provided food and non-food items, vaccinated thousands of children against polio and measles and provided life-saving medicines for 10,000 patients.
The agencies operating on the ground have appealed for about USD 20 million of assistance for six months to deliver emergency and life-saving assistance to 10,000 families in Khost and 3,000 families in Paktika.
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