- Pakistan - Swat valley - Taliban - unrest
AFP - Senior Red Cross officials said Sunday they were "gravely concerned" over the humanitarian situation in Pakistan's Swat Valley, where the army has been fighting Taliban fighters for a month.
"The organization is gravely concerned about the plight of civilians in Swat and believes their situation demands a prompt and comprehensive humanitarian response," said a statement released from the ICRC's Geneva headquarters.
"The people of Swat need greater humanitarian protection and assistance immediately," said Pascal Cuttat, head of the organization's delegation in Pakistan.
"The ICRC will do its utmost to meet those needs without delay," he added.
"Given what we have already seen on the ground, we are mobilizing additional resources, but safe and unimpeded access to the area remains essential for our teams to deliver."
Aid workers had been alarmed at what they saw when they entered the region, said the statement.
"People have been blocked for weeks," said Daniel O'Malley, who led the IRCR team into the region.
"There is no running water, no electricity, and food is scarce," he added.
"There is no fuel left for generators and most medical facilities in the district are no longer functioning.
"Phone lines are down, so people have been cut off from the outside world and are anxious for contact with relatives who fled the area," he added.
Red Cross workers were also disturbed at conditions in Khwazakhela hospital, one of the few medical facilities left in Swat, said the statement.
"The handful of hospital staff left are struggling to work without any water, electricity or supplies," said O'Malley.
"They simply cannot cope with the influx of patients."
The Red Cross evacuated 14 patients from the hospital.
Pakistan's defence secretary said Sunday that fighting in the region could be over in a few days.
Swat valley's main town Mingora is back in government hands, the military announced late Saturday, and security officials said they were now pursuing the top leadership of the hardline Taliban movement into the nearby mountains.