MATUN, Afghanistan, July 2 (UNHCR) - A military offensive in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region has forced more than 75,000 people to flee their homes over the past two weeks, seeking shelter across the border in Afghanistan's Khost and Paktika provinces. Many left suddenly, with very few possessions.
"We could only manage to get ourselves out of Miranshah," one man told UNHCR staff, referring to the capital of the mountainous North Waziristan region. "We left all our belongings. The Pakistani government was bombing our villages," he claimed.
UNHCR, the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization and other partners are working to coordinate relief efforts and deliver assistance, providing tents and other basic relief items to the most vulnerable. However, sanitation, clean drinking water and medical care are in short supply, and although local communities have generously welcomed the displaced, already scarce resources are now reaching capacity.
Humanitarian assistance is urgently needed to support the host communities in sustaining the level of assistance they have been providing to displaced families. "I would also like to call upon the Afghan government and international community to assist these displaced families," said Wali, a local man who has been hosting four families from MIranshah in his home in Khost province's Matun district.
A former refugee in Pakistan, Wali said: "We were assisted by Waziristanis during the 1980s, when we fled Khost [during the Soviet occupation]. They welcomed us and extended their generous support. It is now our moral duty and obligation to assist and help these needy families."
One new arrival, Hassan, said he was grateful for Wali's generosity to his family, one among some 12,100 (75,000 people) to have so far crossed into the eastern Afghanistan provinces of Khost and Paktika. But Hassan noted that "although we were lucky to get the shelter here, there are still hundreds of families who are living in the open without any shelter."
In Pakistan, the government estimates that the latest fighting has left some 470,000 people internally displaced. Many have sought safety in the Khyber-Pakhtunkwa province.