Médecins Sans Frontières responding after heavy fighting due to sectarian clashes in northwest Pakistan

Since the violence started on 23 December in Kurram Agency, North West Frontier Province, Pakistan, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) assessed the situation and is responding to the needs of the population. This is the second time within a year that sectarian clashes have resulted in prolonged insecurity and casualties.

During the outbreak of violence the towns of Alizai and Sadda came under heavy fire from rival factions. Mortars exploded within the vicinity of Alizai and Sadda Hospitals where MSF provides assistance, causing damage to MSF buildings, an ambulance and a hospital mosque. MSF teams provided support and medical materials for more than a hundred wounded treated in the hospital, but reduced the presence of its workers due to insecurity.  Since 3 January, a ceasefire is holding and has been extended to 15 January. MSF teams have access to parts of Kurram, although full services have yet to be restored.

MSF have been able to access some of the people fleeing the fighting who are seeking refuge in Sadda and Durrani, the latter a former Afghan refugee camp three kilometers south of Sadda. In Sadda 361 displaced people have found shelter in eight Government facilities, like schools and hospital quarters, but some families are living outside. In Durrani, 872 people are living in handmade tents and shelters of mud, covered with plastic sheeting.

Fearing a return to violence most of these families do not expect to go back to their homes in the near future. Enduring the coldest months of the year, people in this isolated tribal area face acute shortage of simple necessities like food and fuel.

MSF has distributed blankets and emergency food supplies – special enriched milk and BP-5 biscuits- to all displaced families. A war-wounded kit, consisting of materials and equipment to treat the victims of the fighting, has been delivered to the area. Tents, cooking sets, hygiene kits and additional food will be distributed in the following days.

MSF remains concerned about the access of war wounded and civilians to health care.

Sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni supporters began in November. A Jirga - local peace talks - are underway to try and resolve the issue. Kurram’s population remains on-edge as the holy calendar month of Muharrum ul Harram begins—traditionally a period of sectarian tension.

MSF has been working in Pakistan since 2000 and is currently carrying out medical activities in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan. It is the only international medical organisation present in Sadda and Alizai.