Internally displaced children, who fled a military offensive in the Swat valley region, stand in line for their ration of food at the UNHCR Yar Hussain camp in Swabi district, June 16, 2009. Credit: REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood, courtesy alertnet.org
We're prioritizing water, sanitation and shelter needs of the displaced population.

Conflict in Pakistan: Oxfam responds to the fastest growing displacement in history

“According to UNHCR, more than 120,000 people were leaving the Swat valley on a daily basis.”

Recent conflict in the Swat Valley of the North Western Front Province has forced more than 2 million men, women and children to flee their homes. We're planning to support nearly 360,000 internally displaced people.

Most of the displaced people are living outside of camps, staying with host families, some are able to stay with relatives, while others have found refuge in school buildings and makeshift camps along the road. Of the more than 2 million displaced only 200,000 are living in the 21 official camps .This new influx is on top of the 550,000 displaced last year.

The situation

According to UNHCR data, during the week of July 6, on a daily basis more than 120,000 people were leaving the Swat valley making this the most rapidly growing displacement in history. Hundreds of thousands of displaced are in urgent need of food, shelter, water supply, sanitation and health facilities.

A huge number of the displaced people are living with host communities, crammed in over crowded rooms, host families are doing all they can, but they do not have enough to support the new arrivals. There is an urgent need to provide support in terms of food, shelter, drinking water and sanitation facilities.

The summer heat is adding to the sufferings. The displaced people are living in tents or small rooms without proper ventilation. As the monsoon season approaches, the displaced will face increasing adversity without suitable shelter. Without safe hygiene facilities and adequate nutritional intake, thousands of people are vulnerable to outbreak of diseases including diarrhea, malaria and skin diseases.

Oxfam’s response

With the help of local partner, we've launched an emergency response program to support nearly 360,000 internally displaced men, women and children of Mardan, Swabi, Haripur and Abbotabad districts. We're prioritizing water, sanitation and shelter needs of the displaced population, especially in the host communities and small spontaneous camps and schools.

40,000 families will receive hygiene and household items including cooking pots and utensils, buckets, water cooler, sleeping mats, towels and soaps, assisting them to restart their daily lives. In order to address the urgent need for safe drinking water we are installing hand pumps and rehabilitating shallow wells and boreholes. We are also building safe and hygienic bathing areas and latrines in the camps with adequate water supply. In the host communities we are providing construction material and technical support so that familities can build their own latrines.

Building awareness of the communities on safe health and hygienic practices is one of our priorities. Besides organizing hygiene promotion campaign in schools and camps, we are conducting household visits to enhance people’s knowledge on health and hygiene issues. 100 community health volunteers, half of them women are being recruited and will be trained on safe hygienic practices.

Updated: 16 July 2009