Swat Valley Refugee Crisis Could Reach Rwanda-esque Levels

The Pakistani military operation in the Taliban stronghold of the mountainous Swat Valley is creating massive displacement that is destabilizing and immensely confusing, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The situation also has the potential to balloon into the gravest refugee crisis since one of the most destabilizing events of the past 15 years.

Almost 1.5 million people have registered for assistance since fighting erupted three weeks ago, the UNHCR said, bringing the total number of war displaced in North West Frontier province to more than 2 million, not including 300,000 the provincial government believes have not registered. “It’s been a long time since there has been a displacement this big,” the UNHCR’s spokesman Ron Redmond said in Geneva, trying to recall the last time so many people had been uprooted so quickly. “It could go back to Rwanda.” [emphasis mine]

This is a staggering number of people being displaced in a chaotic, dangerous part of the world. The only reason that the crisis has not reached disaster level is because Pakistani families in the area, impressively united in their opposition to the Taliban, have taken over 80% of the refugees in to their homes. But even the most hospitable of families can only host 85 people in their home for so long…

(image from UNHCR)