IRC Extends Emergency Aid To Displaced Families In Kashmir
|IRC and ISRA ready relief goods for distribution in Athmuqam (Photo x 2: Aurangzaib Khan/IRC).|
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) distributed food and blankets to some 2,200 families displaced by cross-border shelling in Kashmir, the disputed territory that has long been a bone of contention between Pakistan and India.
Working with a local partner, Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA), the IRC distributions focused on families in and around the village of Athmuqam in the Uthmakan sector of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.
"Border tension between India and Pakistan intensified at a time when the aid community was focused on Afghanistan," said Mustafa Ahmad Elkanzi, the IRC's director in Pakistan. "Despite the focus on Afghanistan, we felt that it was important to spare resources for Kashmir. The villages and families falling in the line of fire were in need of immediate help," he added.
Shafqat Baluch, IRC's coordinator for Kashmir said the main beneficiaries of the food and blankets were widows, war-orphans and families who have lost their men to border skirmishes.
Athmuqam and surrounding villages are also facing acute food shortages, and heavy snowfall in the Kashmir Valley this winter has hampered deliveries to this isolated area.
IRC and ISRA managed to distribute the blankets and food items, including cooking oil, flour and grain, before a snowstorm made the only road to Uthmakan impassable.
The ongoing violence also makes deliveries tenuous. "At one point, distribution had to be delayed because of shelling," said Baluch. "We saw shells destroying houses and killing cattle. Everybody had to run for cover."
|Relief workers distribute goods to a beneficiary.|
The IRC has been working in Pakistan for over 22 years, focusing on humanitarian assistance for Afghan refugees in the areas of health, water, sanitation, education, shelter, emergency aid, income-generation and community-building programs. The IRC's Pakistan program maintains offices in Peshawar, Islamabad and in settlements across the Northwest Frontier Province.
In Afghanistan, the IRC works in and around Kabul, Jalalabad, Logar, Gardez, Mazar-I-Sharif and Herat. IRC programs aim to meet the immediate needs of uprooted Afghans, while supporting rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts that will facilitate their return.