An anti-Taliban offensive in Pakistan's Swat valley has hit civilians hard, displacing hundreds of thousands and killing or injuring hundreds caught in the crossfire. The Red Cross hospital in Peshawar is flooded with casualties.
As civilians fleeing the combat zone in Pakistan’s Swat valley arrive en masse in makeshift refugee camps, the Red Cross hospital in the northern city of Peshawar has seen a sharp increase of patients with serious war injuries.
Ismael, 9 years-old, is lucky to be alive: four of his classmates didn’t survive the aid raid that hit their school.
“I was playing in the courtyard when an aero plane flew above our heads. I was scared so I ran to hide but immediately afterwards there was another plane, who shot me in the leg. I have injuries all over my body.
Ismael’s right leg was amputated, and he’s afraid to go home. His family’s house was destroyed by the army. “We left many dead and wounded behind when we fled our town”, says his father.
Since the Pakistani military launched its anti-Taliban offensive in the Swat valley on May 3, the doctors and emergency personnel in the region are facing a sharp workload increase. “We just performed two operations at the same time”, confides Dr. Amayu Khan.
Nobody is turned away from these emergency makeshift clinics, whether they be civilians, Taliban or soldiers. “We treat everyone who is brought to us” says R. Satoma, director of the Peshawar Red Cross hospital. Soon no more beds will be available.
Two million mouths to feed until September
The situation is hardly better in refugee camps. “We live like animals, or worse, here” complains Amna Rashid, a student in a refugee camp near the northwestern city of Mardran. There is no shade, and the heat sometimes reaches 40° Celsius during the day.
Dominic Frankefort, coordinator for the UN World Food Program, estimates more than 2 million people will need food aid until at least September 2009.
“We’re coping with new refugees as they come on a day-to-day basis. If there are 200,000 more refugees each day, we can’t feed them straight away” he explains, adding that “the government has been of almost no help at all”.
The 100 million dollars in aid promised by US secretary of State Hillary Clinton should help supply refugees with first aid in the short term.
Date created : 2009-05-21