Situation Update: Severe Insecurity Hampers Aid Work in Balochistan Province

Situation Update: Severe Insecurity Hampers Aid Work in Balochistan Province

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Background:

The latest National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) figures reveal that a total of 376 people have died in the earthquake affected areas of Awaran and Kech, while 824 people have been injured. Approximately 300,000 people are affected by the earthquakes in Balochistan Province and 35,000 houses have either collapsed or were reported as severely damaged. Villages in Awaran and Kech were flattened by the powerful earthquakes of magnitude 7.7 and 7.2 which hit the province on Tuesday, September 24 and Saturday, September 28.

Persistent attacks by militants on ongoing relief efforts significantly hinder efforts to get much needed aid and assistance to the affected communities. Unlike past experiences in other insecure areas of Pakistan where attacks are targeted at certain military efforts or specific types of agencies or groups, the situation in Awaran makes it highly risky for everyone: the government, military, local and international NGOs. Recognizing the needs of people, the government and aid agencies struggle to find a solution to the insecurity, which seems unlikely considering the failure of militants to accept a truce to stop attacks on relief efforts.

Authorities continue relief activities, but the security situation in the province considerably  slows down relief efforts, leaving thousands of people without shelter and basic necessities. Media sources report that the provincial government announced that relief goods could not be transported to several areas because of security reasons and destroyed road links. The theft of relief items by armed men from three trucks were also reported from the Maskhay area in Awaran District. On early Monday morning, the convoy of Balochistan’s Chief Minister, Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch came under rocket attack in Awaran District. No injuries were reported from this incident in the troubled and highly sensitive district of Awaran. Earlier today (Wednesday, October 2), two soldiers died and four others were wounded when their vehicle struck a landmine along the roadside as they were carrying out relief activities.

While the army faces difficulties in providing relief to the affected families, according to Balochistan’s Chief Minister, the province has had no government for the past decade resulting in miscreants hampering relief efforts in the area. Moreover, the region has a long history of insurgency since 2006, during which Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Bugti was killed. Baloch nationalists blame the Pakistan military for his death.

In an update by Islamic Relief on Relief Web, unknown persons opened fire on a team of doctors and paramedics on September 25. No casualties were reported, but the incident was just one of three recent incidents since September 23, in which aid workers and security forces were killed. Shortly afterwards, the helicopter on NDMA’s Chairman, Major General Alam Saeed, was attacked by rockets during his travel to Awaran.

Along with these major security challenges, Awaran District remains difficult to access. The district is spread over 21,000 square kilometers and takes hours to reach due to inadequate road links, many of which have turned into dirt tracks after the devastating earthquakes.

CWS-P/A, along with other aid agencies, are hoping that the situation in Balochistan improves, at least enough to let the much needed assistance reach the thousands of people affected by these two recent earthquakes.

CWS-P/A Response:

CWS-P/A quickly initiated contact with local partners in the area and is continuously assessing the situation. The emergency response team is on standby but at this point, with the initial situation assessment, CWS-P/A is not planning a direct response. However, the situation will be closely monitored and shall act accordingly.

Sources:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1046475/convoy-of-balochistan-cm-escapes-rocket-attack-in-awaran

http://www.dawn.com/news/1046470/thousands-still-without-shelter-in-earthquake-hit-areas

http://www.dawn.com/news/1046918/roadside-bomb-kills-two-soldiers-in-quake-hit-balochistan-district

http://reliefweb.int/report/pakistan/security-fears-hold-back-relief-work-quake-hit-pakistan

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013%5C09%5C30%5Cstory_30-9-2013_pg13_6

http://tribune.com.pk/story/610248/tragedy-magnified/

http://tribune.com.pk/story/610208/quake-terror-helicopter-carrying-relief-goods-attacked-by-militants/

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/national/27-Sep-2013/militants-target-quake-rescuers

http://www.ndma.gov.pk/new/

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