Waves of Pakistanis flood into Afghanistan before military offensive
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
6/25/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Roughly 50,000 Pakistanis have crossed into eastern Afghanistan over the past ten days to flee air strikes. In addition, another 435,000 have fled to different parts of Pakistan, something which several U.N. agencies fear could fuel the spread of polio.
The Pakistani military will begin a major offensive against Islamist militants in the province of North Waziristan.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - This mass exodus is in response to the Pakistani military's deadline for civilians to leave the mountainous province of North Waziristan by the end of June 30 ahead of a highly anticipated military offensive in the region aimed at Islamist militants.
Most of the residents of that area are not vaccinated against polio by order of the local governing Shura, a religious leadership. The Shura has banned the polio vaccination for the past two years, demanding a halt to U.S. drone strikes, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to WHO spokeswoman Sona Bari, the ban on vaccinations has led to a "huge outbreak of polio," being responsible for 53 of the country's 82 recorded cases in 2014.
Last year Pakistan had 93 cases of the crippling nervous system disease. Immunization is the only method to fight the disease, and un-immunized people, especially children, are at risk.
"There is a risk that now with the population moving out [of North Waziristan] that the virus will move out," Bari said.
Since the June 15 start of military operation in the region, the number of Pakistanis who have fled to Afghanistan has jumped from 7,000 on June 20, to 50,000.
"There was a temporary halt to militants operation, to air strikes on Sunday . So that's why we have seen the figures rise particularly quickly in the last couple of days," said Dan McNorton of the U.N. refugee agency.
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