Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fleeing from the Taliban: Pakistan IDP's in Need

Unfortunately, this charming picture of a little boy with his sheep in the Swat Valley in Pakistan is not charming at all. The boy is one of about one million (and some are saying two million) Pakistani internally displaced persons, or IDP's, refugees in their own country. Not technically homeless, they have left their villages and farms for safety while troops continue to fight against the Taliban. Many are staying with family or friends around Islamabad, but some are in camps or living along the highway in tents--some very makeshift. Because the war-affected area is more of an agricultural economy than a money economy, these people may have arrived to safety, but a great number have almost nothing. Most farmers have had to abandon their farm animals and in-the-ground crops.

As we sit around and contemplate our lost or delayed retirements years into the future due to our economy, these displaced people are worrying about dinner tonight and how to obtain medicine for sick family members, many of whom walked to safety.

Americans love to help the less fortunate, but helping in difficult areas and situations such as this gives many pause. While it received very little publicity, Hillary Clinton, in a press conference on Tuesday, shared a way that Americans can easily contribute small amounts. Simply take your cellphone and text the word "Swat" to the number 20222. While the American government is giving $100 million in aid, these contributions will be made to the U.N. High Commission on Refugees to provide tents, food, clothing and medicine. On Friday, Pakistan appealed directly to the US public for help via these small contributions.

UPDATE: The NWFP Provincial government has put together a very interesting website, and the latest count of internally displaced persons is 1, 987,980.


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