In Pakistan displaced women, children vulnerable, warns ACT

Published June 10, 2009

Displaced women and young girls are facing increasingly severe hardships in the Mardan and Swabi areas of Pakistan, says ACT International, a global alliance of churches and related agencies working in emergencies worldwide. “We are from cold areas and only have warm clothes with us. Now the temperature here is extremely hot and we are looking for suitable clothes,” Naz Bibi, a displaced woman in the Mardan area was quoted as saying in an ACT statement on June 9. “Pregnant women are sleeping on the floor and need mattresses.”Pakistan forces are fighting to take back the nearby Swat Valley and other parts of the country in the northwest from the control of armed militants, leaving residents fleeing the conflict, and stretching humanitarian services such as hospitals and refugee camps.The ACT statement said that as its members deliver assistance to the 2.5 million displaced people, staff have noted a significant lack of access to cooked food, hygiene facilities and health services for displaced women.”Humanitarian assistance is not just about providing the material aid that people need,” said ACT International director, John Nduna. “It is also about working to change the circumstances that block access to basic services.”Highlighting some of the basic problems faced in the area, ACT said women find it difficult to obtain assistance at male-dominated locations inside and outside the camps. Increasing numbers of women, with their children, are arriving in the Swabi area unaccompanied by their husbands, who are staying behind in the conflict area to take care of property and crops. Without their husbands, many women face further difficulties getting access to basic services.Distribution points for cooked food in the camps are largely dominated by men, and cultural barriers are preventing women from accessing the food for themselves and their children, ACT stated. “One of the most critical issues is the lack of health facilities for women, particularly with the lack of female health staff,” said Saleem Dominic from U.S.-based Church World Service, which works with ACT, after returning from Pakistan.


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