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PAKISTAN: Waziristan IDPs get measles vaccinations for first time

Photo: Abdul Majeed Goraya/IRIN
Most IDPs are women and children who have had little access to healthcare or other humanitarian assistance in the past
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, 26 October 2009 (IRIN) - Thousands of displaced children from South Waziristan have received measles vaccinations for the first time.

So far, 180,000 children, from both internally displaced persons’ (IDP) and host families in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), have been vaccinated against measles, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and further vaccination campaigns are planned.

“These people have often never had any kind of contact with healthcare workers. Access to them has been impossible due to the fighting in Waziristan and the resistance of militants to vaccinators,” said Taufiq Khan, a volunteer doctor who is helping care for the IDPs.

Some 139,000 people have so far fled fierce fighting in South Waziristan and arrived in the neighbouring districts of Tank and Dera Ismail Khan in NWFP, according to OCHA.

“Over 57,600 have been registered in those two districts in the past 10 days. IDPs from South Waziristan are living in host communities, with friends and families, or in rented homes, as has been the pattern with other recent conflict displacement in Pakistan,” OCHA said in a statement on 24 October.

Low literacy rate

According to government statistics, the literacy rate for Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas is 17.42 percent, compared with 35 percent for the NWFP. South Waziristan is one of seven tribal agencies located on the Pakistani-Afghan border. Only 3 percent of women are literate and there is only one doctor for every 7,670 people.

“I have never been to a doctor or even seen one. There is no doctor in our village, though I had heard about vaccinations for children,” said Nazeer Mehsud, 70, an IDP. He said his grandchildren had been sick with coughs when the family arrived in Dera Ismail Khan two weeks ago.

“But a doctor has now given us medicine and their fever is down. We have also received all kinds of other items, like biscuits and dried milk, and we are grateful for all this assistance because we had no idea what things would be like for us.”

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said most of those displaced are women and children.

“Especially vulnerable”

Luc Chauvin, deputy head of UNICEF in Pakistan, said in a statement the IDPs “have already lived through years of insecurity in one of the remotest and poorest parts of Pakistan which has left them especially vulnerable. Now, we must ensure they are protected from the effects of poor nutrition, sanitation and disease, not to mention the terrible upheaval of displacement and violence.”

He added that less than 60 percent of children in South Waziristan received routine immunizations.

Host families who have opened their doors to the displaced, as their tribal code of hospitality demands, are also benefiting from the assistance being given to the IDPs. “My children were also given warm blankets and some shots they needed by a health team,” said Jahanzeb Khan, who is hosting a family of 10 in his three-room house.

“We do not know these people, but they were in need and despite some security concerns because they could be militants escaping the army, I am happy to do what I can to help,” he said.


Theme(s): (PLUSNEWS) Children, (PLUSNEWS) Conflict, (PLUSNEWS) Health & Nutrition, (PLUSNEWS) Refugees/IDPs


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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