A Pakistani aid worker is pleading for New Zealanders to help women forced from their homes and living in fear.
Shama Mall, of aid agency Church World Service Pakistan/Afghanistan, which provides aid for the most vulnerable people in camps for internally displaced, says women are facing a major safety and healthcare crisis.
Ms Mall works in association with New Zealand-based overseas aid agency Christian World Service.
Just over three million people displaced by the drive to expel Taleban insurgents have fled the fighting that started last month. Many have taken shelter in camps for internally displaced. However conditions for women unaccompanied by men and for pregnant women are dangerous.
Ms Mall says women without male family members or women separated from husbands have very little security and risk rape or assault. A lack of female doctors means many pregnant women are reluctant to seek medical care, putting their lives and their babies at risk. Women also endure lack of medicines, proper food, birthing facilities and even sanitary pads. Some women are cutting segments of canvas from their tents to use as pads.
“Women are afraid to leave their tents or shelters to fetch food, get medical attention or even use toilets. The upheaval of escaping armed conflict, being forced to leave homes and loved ones, living in unsafe conditions and uncertainty about the future are contributing to women’s trauma.”
She urges aid organisations, the Pakistani government and the UN to put more emphasis on women’s health, hygiene and protection.
Christian World Service is appealing for funds to help the people in camps for internally displaced people. National director Pauline McKay says the dire situation for women and girls requires greater effort and can be alleviated with more health professionals and facilities.
June 10, 2009