GENEVA More than 200,000 people have fled fighting in northwestern Pakistan this month and are in urgent need of relief assistance, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Friday.
The humanitarian agency said it had launched an initial aid operation to help 64,000 of the 200,000 people forced to flee Bajaur. Pakistan has launched military operations against militants in the restive tribal region on the Afghan border, a known sanctuary for al Qaeda and Taliban militants.
The figure includes 50,000 people who have left for relatively safer areas of Pakistan in the North West Frontier Province, including Peshawar, as well as 14,000 who have crossed into eastern Afghanistan, the ICRC said in a statement.
"...these displaced people are in urgent need of basic necessities such as food, clean water and shelter," said Pascal Cuttat, head of ICRC's delegation in Pakistan. "Lack of medical care is a problem for sick people, particularly children."
Along with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, the ICRC has delivered medical supplies to hospitals receiving the bulk of the injured, according to the Geneva-based agency.
Blankets, clothing, tarpaulins, soap and other supplies were being distributed to the displaced, and food was on its way.
Host families who have taken in the displaced were already poor and their food resources are dwindling further, it said.
The ICRC was planning to deliver emergency food and non-food aid on Saturday to 14,000 people from Bajaur who have fled into Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan.
The ICRC called on all parties to the conflict to protect
civilians and allow the delivery of emergency relief and medical supplies, in compliance with international humanitarian law.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by Robert Hart)