Pakistan, the Taliban, Axis of Evil, terrorist state and suicide bombings. A jump out of my world of Africa, into the heart of Central Asia and another crisis. This crisis is similar to those I have covered, a country indiscriminantly bombing its own people. Chasing out subversive elements they say, with little regard for civilian casualties and the long term repercussions of their actions. In January of 2009, the government of Pakistan began an offensive in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) of the country which borders Afghanistan and is considered a hotbed for the Taliban. The latest incursion is in the Swat Valley, a beautiful, mountainous area known as the Switzerland of Pakistan. Swat has historically been a touristic area, with the highest literacy rates in all of Pakistan among men and women.
These educated people were given a couple of hours notice to evacuate their homes before the onslaught began. Shelling from plane and mortar began while people fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs. In the past three weeks, over 1.7 million people have been registered as IDPs and NGOs are struggling to meet their needs. Not since Rwanda has the international community seen an exodus of these numbers. Tents cannot be put up fast enough, people are waiting in food lines for several hours to find sometimes the food has run out, latrines are not sufficient, medical facilities are not available and these educated people sit in the middle of the desert suffering yet again, this time at the hand of their own government.
IDPs waiting in long food lines, Yar Hussein camp, Swabi, Pakistan. Some IDPs report waiting hours for the food to be gone. June 4, 2009
An elderly IDP waits for food rations from the World Food Program. She is one of the 80% of IDPs not living in a camp. June 4, 2009