From the UNHCR:
“The number of people who have fled the fighting in northwest Pakistan this month and been registered or recorded by authorities reached 670,906 on Wednesday, up from just over half a million the day before.
The majority of those registered by Pakistani authorities with the assistance of UNHCR are staying in the homes of friends and relatives or camping out in the open; a fraction of the total — 79,842 — are now living in camps.”
Here’s the story of a barber from Barikot in Swat:
“A few months back his business closed down as shaving was declared an unacceptable business. He had no intention of leaving Barikot.
But as the military action started and the firing of guns grew louder – along with the shrieks and howls of terrified people – it became impossible for him and his family to live there any longer.
Children had become hysterical – crying endlessly – and everyone was in a trauma not knowing when the shells would hit them.
Like many others, he decided on the spur of the moment to leave as he could not take it anymore.”
These people badly need help: many of them fled with nothing, and while those in refugee camps are probably the worst off, those who have relatives to stay with also need help. (Click here to read about a security guard who supports his wife and three children on $153/month, and who is presently housing and feeding twenty relatives, with more probably on the way.) They’ve suffered through the Taliban; now their homes are in the middle of a war zone. As Ahsan at Five Rupees says:
“The people living in these areas have been through absolute hell for over a year now, as the Taliban encroached upon their land, slowly took over, extended their brutal form of “government”, and are now being driven out by the Pakistani military. Again, to reiterate, they never asked for any of this.”