January 02, 2008

Since December 23, a sectarian clash has been underway in Kurram Agency, North West Frontier Province, Pakistan. Mortars have exploded within the vicinity of Alizai and Sadda hospitals, where the medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provides assistance.

The town of Alizai has been surrounded and blockaded by fighters. Five mortars landed near the MSF hospital compound on December 25. The following day, another three mortars shook the facility, damaging the MSF buildings and ambulance. Only a few wounded people have made their way to the hospital for treatment. MSF was providing trauma medicines and materials, but has had to reduce the presence of its workers due to the insecurity. Fighting continues daily.

On December 30, a mortar hit the hospital in the nearby town of Sadda, damaging the hospital mosque. Over a hundred wounded have arrived in the emergency room. MSF teams have provided support and medical materials, and, while lowering staff numbers to the minimum, continues to provide basic maternal health services.

Buildings in Sadda town have been subjected to daily mortar fire and other heavy weapon fire since December 23. People fleeing fighting in nearby towns are seeking refuge in Sadda, but they have come under fire. MSF is trying to get additional supplies, including food and blankets, to those most affected by the conflict.

This is the second time this year that sectarian clashes have resulted in prolonged insecurity and casualties. Located in an isolated tribal area on the conflicted Afghan border, civilians in many parts of Kurram Agency are facing acute shortages of simple necessities like food and fuel during the coldest months of the year.

Sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni supporters began in November. Local peace talks are underway to try to resolve the issue. Heavy weapon and small arms fire are still heard regularly in and around Alizai and Sadda towns.

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 organization present in Sadda and Alizai.

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