On Tuesday, May 19th, the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton approved the disbursement of 110 million dollars in emergency aid as a humanitarian effort in Pakistan.
The humanitarian aid arrived in the country Wednesday, May 20th. It is used for pre-packed Halal meals, water trucks and air-conditioned tents for civilians. The largest expense of the aid is $26 million for wheat and food items produced in Pakistan. Pentagon spokesperson, Bryan Whitman announced, “The Pakistanis could use some basic humanitarian assistance that the United States is prepared to provide.”
The aid being given to Pakistan does not require approval from Congress because it comes from “existing funds.” $100 million in aid would come from Clinton’s State Department, while $10 million comes from the Pentagon.
The United States administration has a new strategy against the Taliban militants in Pakistan, since Taliban fighters have taken positions within 60 miles of the country’s capital. The emergency aid is specifically for the 1.5 million Pakistanis who have been forced out of their homes with some seeking shelter in unlivable tented cities because of the fighting taking place in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. Nearly 80 percent of the displaced population is staying with families, while 200,000 to 250,000 people are in camps. Those people who have been driven out of their homes have been classified as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
U.S. President Barack Obama has publicly addressed the need to improve the lives of people living in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. His desire to improve the lives of the country’s residents stems from the administration’s new plan against the Taliban in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Taliban has provided refuge for Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida leaders along the ungovernable borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani of Pakistan appointed Brigadier General Nadeem Ahmad to lead the relief effort in Pakistan as the head of a Special Support Group for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at the Government level. The United Nations Refugee Agency has announced that the displacement in Pakistan is, “the largest and fastest to occur anywhere in the world in recent years.”
Aid for the health crisis
The WHO and UN agencies are working with federal as well as local agencies in Pakistan to provide necessary supplies to temporarily resolve the country’s health conditions.
The WHO has received over $514,000 from the United Nations Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) between August 2008 and March 2009, for the health needs of nearly 550,000 people previously displaced by the growing combat in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan. The CERF money is strictly for the prevention and control of infectious diseases, as well as strengthening the health conditions. This disbursement of funds was prior to the recent counterinsurgency acts that began two weeks ago.
Since August 2008, the WHO reported nearly 22 outbreaks of various diseases including acute and bloody diarrhea, measles, malaria, chicken pox and mumps.
The Taliban war in Pakistan
Since the early 1960’s Pakistan has been struggling for a stabile government and eradicating the high levels of poverty in the country.
The recent warfare began in 2004 in Waziristan on the northwest border of Pakistan. Pakistan’s army entered the region that was inhabited by the Waziri tribe in search of al-Qaida and Taliban forces who utilized Waziristan as a base for attacks against American and Allied forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan shares a long mountainous border with Afghanistan making it easy to cross between countries.
The relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan have been strained since the overthrow of the Taliban Regime in November 2001 after the attacks to the U.S. on September 11, 2001. Pakistani armed forces suffer constant casualties due to roadside bombs and ambushes from the Taliban. The fighting is continuing to grow since the central government has lost authority in the borderlands.
The United States aids the Pakistani forces with intelligence information and with tactical air strikes on suspected bases and hideouts. The Taliban is slowly making its way to Islamabad (the capital of Pakistan).
Improving the lives of the people of Pakistan
With the United States providing monetary assistance to the people of Pakistan and the United Nations financially focusing on the health conditions in the country, the displaced civilians of Pakistan will have some sort of temporary relief. As the Pakistan military moves into Mingora, the main town in Swat, the number of displaced civilians will increase to reach possibly 2 million.
The possibility of Taliban attacks are a constant threat to the livelihood of the Pakistanis. Pakistani forces are continuing their search and destroy operation in Pakistan’s Piochar Valley in Swat before they move to the capital. This location is said to be the training center of Taliban militants.
With the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan loosely monitored and the central government loosing authority, the main concern is for the people of Pakistan who are losing their homes and forced to live in camps. U.S. defense representative in Islamabad, Rear Admiral Michael LeFever said Pakistani authorities expect the number of displaced people to grow in the northwest and for the temporary camps to remain until the end of 2009. Pakistan is set to host an international donors’ meeting in Islamabad to help raise funds for the people of Pakistan to help the displaced.