In Pakistan, where constant insecurity, political uncertainty ahead of upcoming elections, an energy and fuel crisis, and the remnants of past natural disasters plague the masses, two new emergencies are emerging. In Northern Pakistan, the government requested assistance from UNHCR to register thousands of internally displaced families as shifting military action against militants continues to cause displacement as it has for the past several years. In Sindh, a sharp increase in cases of measles causes alarm and child deaths, particularly in areas where vaccination against the disease is low.
Due to the armed forces’ operation against militants and the drone strikes, approximately 10,000 families have been displaced from South Waziristan Agency in the past two weeks. UNHCR is in the process of registering these families. In addition to the recently displaced families, based on the government’s request UNHCR is also registering previously displaced families living in these areas where an estimated 25,000 families need to be registered. During the 2009 military operation, 67,000 families where displaced, but only 42,000 families were verified by National Authority Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), leaving the remaining families ineligible to receive relief assistance. The newly and previously displaced families are living in host communities, with a concentration in two districts, Dera Ismail Khan and Tank. Since January 2, 2013, more than 17,500 families were registered in these two districts. According to the FATA Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) and partners working in the area, these IDPs are in immediate need of shelter, WASH, health services, non-food items (NFIs) and winterized clothing.
According to media, the health minister cited that during December 2012, a total of 2,475 cases of measles were detected in Sindh. A spokeswoman for the World Health Organization (WHO) shared that 306 children died from measles in Pakistan during 2012, which was significantly higher than 64 child deaths in 2011. More than 200 of the deaths occurred in southern Sindh Province. In the areas hardest affected, not vaccinating children is a leading factor in the quick spread of the infectious disease. Access to health services for many of the rural communities is non-existent particularly where facilities were destroyed during consecutive years of floods, and a belief by a significant number of these communities that vaccinations are a Western plot to sterilize Muslims further reduces the number of children who receive adequate childhood vaccinations. Vaccination campaigns are underway, but the quantity of needed vaccines and the urgency of the matter remain a concern and a fight against time.
CWS-P/A is participating in coordination and cluster meetings and is in contact with local partners. CWS-P/A’s current health services for IDPs in Peshawar are ongoing and planned until January 31, 2013; this activity supports families displaced from Khyber Agency during early 2012. The emergency response team is on standby in case the need arises to respond.
CWS-P/A is also increasing awareness on measles and other health topics and providing vaccinations through its existing mother and child health center in Thatta, Sindh. Coordination with the local health department for vaccines is ongoing, and stocking of relevant medicines at the health center is also underway.