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OR-Based Group Mobilizes in Pakistan Amid Taliban Fighting

May 14, 2009

Portland, OR – As a half million people half the world away in Pakistan flee their homes because of armed fighting, an Oregon-based aid group is on the ground to help those families in need. Mercy Corps is handing out emergency kits this week, and Portland-based personnel are arriving in Pakistan to assess the continued emergency response.

Spokesperson Caitlin Carlson says those who had to flee had little notice.

"There’s a large number of people who have left their homes with almost nothing and are in need of urgent humanitarian supplies."

A Mercy Corps senior officer arrived in Pakistan this week to assess and coordinate the emergency response. The refugees are not expected to be able to return home for at least six months, and observers believe it will take years for the area to recover from the damage caused by the fighting.

Reports from the war zone are compelling many Oregonians to help, says Carlson. While some may think of gathering blankets and clothes for donations, Carlson says the most effective assistance is a cash donation – so supply kits can be purchased and assembled near the point of distribution to cut down on shipping costs.

"We’re able to get supplies there immediately in a way that also helps the local communities. At this time, the economy’s getting a huge hit there with the violence that’s going on."

The United Nations estimates the latest wave of those fleeing adds to more than a half million who already left their Northwest Frontier Province homes last August.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - OR