With ongoing conflict in the North-West Frontier Province forcing approximately 3.5 million people to flee their homes, a new wide-reaching survey of the displaced population by International Medical Corps finds critical gaps in assistance, including hygiene and sanitation services.
“Civilians continue to flood out of the conflict zones on a daily basis, and our findings underscore the scale and intensity of the displacement crisis currently underway,” says Sonia Walia, International Medical Corps regional coordinator for Asia.
“While those who have made it to the camps tell us they’re getting adequate access to health care and food, there is widespread concern about the lack of hygiene and sanitation, as well as information about what services are available. And those who are still in transit are desperately concerned about a lack of all basic services, including shelter, food, water and health care.”
International Medical Corps is providing basic health services and 24-hour medical care for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Swabi District at Yar Hussain Mera camp, as well as operating mobile medical units to host populations and IDPs residing in the community.
International Medical Corps is also providing services through Swabi District Hospital, which is under-resourced and overwhelmed by the increasing case load from the internally displaced and host population. To help meet the increased demand, International Medical Corps is providing equipment, supplies, medicines, and training services to the hospital, in addition to medical services. International Medical Corps is also supporting and deploying medicines and equipment to a second facility, Saidu Hospital in Swat Valley.
The rapid assessment, conducted at Yar Hussain camp in Swabi and at Sheikh Shezad camp in Mardan District May 14-16, found that about 80 percent of respondents were most concerned with access to basic services such as water, sanitation and electricity.
Eighty-four percent of those in Yar Hussain and 91 percent of those in Sheikh Shezad said they had enough food for their household needs. But for those IDPs still in transit, 95 percent cited shelter as their greatest need, 83 percent cited concerns about inadequate food, and about 50 percent had insufficient access to health services, water, sanitation and electricity.
“As these camp populations expand, this will pose a crucial threat to the health and well-being of the population,” Walia says. “Equally significant are the psychosocial needs of the population, given that the majority left their homes very quickly, in many cases after experiencing the death or injury of a family member. Assistance for physical and emotional trauma is needed.”
Immediately following the displacement, International Medical Corps emergency response teams provided health and hygiene kits in Mardan and Swabi districts to newly uprooted families who were forced to flee the violence with only what they could carry. Kits included a plastic bucket, towels, cloth, bath and laundry soap, and personal hygiene products sufficient for a family of six. Many of the families arrived at the camps with very few basic necessities.
International Medical Corps had already been providing services to those displaced from related military operations in August 2008 in Peshawar, Nowshehra, Charsadda, and Lower Dir. Its emergency relief efforts reached more than 50,000 people with services like health care, water and sanitation, and hygiene promotion.
Millions of civilians have fled the Swat valley since the Taliban seized control of Swat’s capital of Mingora on May 3. About a week later the Taliban also pushed into Buner District, an area just 60 miles from the capital of Islamabad.