IRC assists people fleeing armed clashes in northwestern Pakistan
The IRC is supporting 7,000 students, displaced by the ongoing conflict between the Pakistani army and militants, in seven schools in Jalozai camp. (Photo: Peter Biro/IRC)
By Peter Biro
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is responding to a new wave of displacement in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas, the result of recent Pakistani military operations against insurgents in Mohmand agency.
The IRC, which aided some 800,000 Pakistanis fleeing military operations against the Taliban in northwest Pakistan in 2009, is enrolling newly arrived displaced children in schools in Jalozai, a sprawling displaced persons camp near the city of Peshawar.
Abdul Raziq, 20, fled the village of Lodin Khail in late February this year. Raziq recalled frantically packing his family’s bags as tank rounds detonated near their house. While Raziq fled south towards Peshawar, a cousin who stayed behind was killed in the fighting.
“My village is almost empty now,” Raziq said. “There is still heavy fighting and nobody wants to return.”
Abdul Raziq (right) with fellow villagers who have been displaced by the latest fighting in Mohmand. (Photo: Peter Biro/IRC)
Currently, some 80,000 people live in Jalozai. Most have been there since 2009. Earlier this year, the government began sending people home to Mohmand and other parts of the tribal areas. Though the Pakistani authorities say these are areas are safe most people in Jalozai are afraid to return to them.
Mohmand is one of seven Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The military operation there began in late January. Most of the tens of thousands of people who have fled the conflict have settled in camps some 12 miles from the fighting.
The IRC and other aid groups in the region are working to ensure that those who have fled the fighting receive assistance and protection. The IRC is also working with local aid groups and communities to ensure that the return of displaced people to their home villages is voluntary and that the rights of returnees are protected.
“With Pakistan’s devastating floods dominating the news over the past six months it's easy to forget there is a protracted conflict in this country and that more than half a million people remain displaced,” said Tammy Hasselfeldt, the IRC’s director in Pakistan. “The situation is still desperate.”