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Monsoon threatens misery for Pakistan displaced

Some of the two million people displaced by an anti-Taliban campaign in Pakistan may have to move again as the looming monsoon season brings floods and disease, UN officials said on Thursday.

world Updated: Jul 02, 2009 16:55 IST

Some of the two million people displaced by an anti-Taliban campaign in Pakistan may have to move again as the looming monsoon season brings floods and disease, UN officials said on Thursday.

The 1.9 million began fleeing their homes in the northwest in late April as the military launched an offensive to rid the Swat valley and surrounding areas of Taliban rebels.

So far civilians used to cool, mountain air have been suffering in the intense heat and dust of government-run camps or overcrowded relatives' homes, but now heavy rains threaten to bring fresh misery this month.

Martin Mogwanja, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Pakistan, told a press conference in Islamabad that many of the camps in North West Frontier Province were in districts prone to flooding.

"There may have to be some camps or parts of camps that have to be moved. Some are in low-lying areas," he said.

Pakistan's monsoon season begins in July and runs until September.

Eric Laroche, an assistant director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), said that the monsoon could increase incidents of diarrhoea and acute respiratory disease among the displaced.

He warned that funding for the health of the displaced remained short, with international donors coming forward with only two million dollars of the 10 million needed for essential medicines.

"The response has been very low... the needs are still very dire," he said.

WHO country representative Khalif Bile Mohamud said they had so far confirmed that 178 civilians were killed and 2,200 others wounded in the conflict zone during military operations.

He stressed that those were early findings based on hospital figures.

Pakistan says it has done all it can to avoid civilian casualties, but people fleeing the conflict zone have reported indiscriminate bombing in some areas and incidents of the military firing on civilians.

Mogwanja stressed that before people begin returning to Swat -- which the army says is almost cleared of militants -- the government must make sure that they will be safe and that electricity and normal health services are restored.