Harrowing tales of flight from Waziristan

Many internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have fled South Waziristan tell harrowing tales of rockets hitting roads or houses as they tried to leave areas where Taliban militants are fighting government forces.



“I watched my cousin’s home burst into flames after being hit by a bomb. Fortunately he had taken his family away last week,” said Miran Gul, an IDP from a village near Makine in South Waziristan.



Miran Gul said he had to “walk for over 12 hours” to reach the town of Razmak in North Waziristan, from where he got transport to Peshawar.



The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in its latest situation report said: “The IDPs report hardships on their way out of the conflict area as all main roads are blocked and tightly controlled… there is a curfew imposed in all conflict-affected parts of South Waziristan.”



Dawn newspaper reported that 12 members of a family were killed after being hit by a bomb while trying to flee South Waziristan.



Access to the IDPs is a continuing problem, but help is being provided.



Billi Bierling, a spokesperson for OCHA in Pakistan, told IRIN: “Even though access is a problem due to the difficult security situation in the area, the UN agencies and their implementing partners are providing much-needed help to the IDPs. So far the IDPs are staying mainly with host families or in rented accommodation. However, the IDPs who are registered are receiving food and non-food items, such as bedding, kitchen utensils, towels, soap, etc.”



No IDP camps - yet



Citing the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government’s Social Welfare Department, OCHA’s situation report said 106,800 IDPs were now registered in neighbouring Tank and Dera Ismail Khan districts in NWFP, with 85,000 in Dera Ismail Khan.



Some 26,300 IDPs have arrived in the two districts since 13 October, whilst 80,500 came to the area between May and August 2009, it said.



“At present, the IDPs are accommodated with host families and no camps are set up, neither in Dera Ismail Khan nor Tank districts. However, the authorities might consider camps in the future, as more civilians leave the areas of conflict,” OCHA said.



Bierling said the aid community was expecting the current number of IDPs “to increase to 250,000 if military operations continue”.



Meanwhile, NWFP Relief Commissioner Shakeel Qadar Khan told IRIN: “Provision has been made for the IDPs to get Rs 5,000 [US$60] a month.”



Winter approaching



One of the main concerns of IDPs is how long they may be displaced for. “Winter is approaching fast. It will be hard to move back if roads close due to snow,” said Miran Gul. He is also concerned about what could become of their homes if “no one [is there] to clear away the snow on roofs”.



The fighting is reported by people who have come out of the area as being “fierce”, and people are concerned about relatives still trapped there.



“My brother is still based near Wana [principal town of Waziristan] with our parents, who refused to leave the family home. Contact is difficult, because telephone services are bad, and I worry constantly about them,” said Azam Khan, now in Peshawar.



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