UNICEF supports children and women displaced by insecurity in north-western Pakistan
By Fatima Raja
JALOZAI CAMP, KP, Pakistan, 9 March 2012 – Ongoing insecurity in north-western Pakistan has caused thousands to flee their homes. Families are streaming into Jalozai Camp seeking shelter, support and food.
For years, this camp has housed thousands of people displaced from neighbouring Afghanistan. Now, the families arriving here are seeking shelter from unrest caused by security operations against militant insurgents in Khyber Agency, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Over 6,600 families have fled the area since January 2012. Some 4,700 families are residing in host communities, and some 1,900 families are living in Jalozai camp. The lives of displaced children have been severely disrupted; many have seen members of their families and communities killed.
“Increasing numbers of civilians are being caught in attacks and crossfire,” said Lucio Melandri, UNICEF Emergency Field Coordinator in Peshawar.
Stories of violence and deprivation
Families arriving in Jalozai Camp bring stories of violence and deprivation. Many have experienced shelling. And with markets closed and movement limited by fighting and curfews, children are at increased risk of malnutrition.
Lubna* is among those uprooted by the operation. She has just arrived with her nine children.
“It was like a rain of bullets,” Lubna said, explaining that she and her neighbours are frequently forced to flee their homes. They have dug bunkers in their houses in case they cannot escape in time. Despite these measures, Lubna’s husband and 14-year-old son were killed by crossfire.
In the camp, Lubna found that all 10 family members would have to share a single tent. Her family decided to risk returning home, taking with them the hygiene items provided by UNICEF, food rations from the World Food Programme (WFP), and other assistance from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Her youngest daughter also received a dose of polio vaccine.
Kaukab has also just arrived in Jalozai Camp. Her husband was imprisoned years ago, after rumours indicated he was connected to a militant group. Kaukab was left to head her household in a society that prohibits women from engaging in public dealings. Her 12-year-old son, Ahmed, now bears many of his father’s responsibilities.
“I was very scared of the bombardments and shelling,” Ahmed said. Some of his neighbours have died in the operations.
Kaukab travelled to Jalozai Camp to register her family for food assistance. Because her in-laws would not allow her to live in the camp as a single woman, Ahmed was forced to abandon his exam preparations to accompany her.
Years of insecurity have limited access to basic health services in the area, leaving residents here particularly vulnerable to disease. Bara Tehsil in Khyber Agency had 25 cases of polio in 2011, and the mass movement of displaced people now threatens to spread the deadly virus. UNICEF is working with partners to strengthen services in camps, with a particular emphasis on immunization: Teams have been deployed to vaccinate children under age 5 against polio.
UNICEF is also providing hygiene kits to displaced families, including those outside the camps, and is expanding the camp’s existing health care, education, child protection, water and sanitation programmes. Since the start of the year, over 72,000 people in the camps have benefited from safe drinking water and sanitation services, as well as hygiene information and supplies. In addition, WFP is providing food rations, and UNHCR is providing other assistance.
“Through our emergency response activities, UNICEF is striving to assist, protect and promote the rights of children and women who are severely affected by the ongoing violence,” said Mr. Melandri.
The situation remains complex and fluid. Continued support will be required to serve vulnerable families, not only in camps and host communities, but in areas of return as well.
* Names have been changed