Displaced families find shelter in north-western Pakistan
By David Youngmeyer
NOWSHERA, Pakistan, 2 May 2012 – Safe now at a camp for displaced people, Jan Bibi recalls the horrific events that led her family to flee for their lives earlier this year.
Recent insecurity in Khyber Agency, in north-western Pakistan, has led to the dislacement of more than 200,000 people since January. While nearly 60,000 people are living at Jalozai camp, in Nowshera Province, the majority are staying in host communities. This new influx comes on top of thousands of people who were displaced by earlier insecurity. Since 2008, some 689,000 people in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) have been displaced.
‘Like countless stars in the sky’
In a soft but steady voice, Jan describes how insecurity reached her village near the end of January. “Everywhere there was shelling and bombing, and very heavy shooting. It was like countless stars in the sky.”
Although her face is not visible beneath her burka, Jan uses her hands to emphasize her point.
“Many children and adults were killed in the bombing and shelling. My sister-in-law’s son was killed and our house was destroyed. We were all afraid and wanted to leave.”
Around three months ago, her family left the village at night, along with many of their neighbours. They walked some three hours on foot until they could find transportation. Jan’s family took only the clothes they were wearing, and their livelihood – three goats, two sheep and a cow – all had to be left behind.
“I felt so helpless. We lost everything. Now we are dependent on aid. We are just passing our lives now at the camp,” she said.
UNICEF is also working with the Government and other partners to provide essential humanitarian assistance to camp residents. This includes providing safe drinking water to nearly 75,000 people at Jalozai and two other camps, along with distributing 24,000 hygiene kits, buckets and jerry cans to displaced families.
UNICEF supports eight schools at the camp, allowing thousands of children to continue their educations.
UNICEF is also supporting maternal and child health services, such as vaccinations for measles and polio, as well as malnutrition screening and treatment for children and women.
Since January, almost 22,000 children under age 5 and more than 10,000 pregnant and lactating women have been screened for malnutrition at Jalozai camp and other sites in Khyber Pakhtunkawa and FATA, with nearly 3,000 children and 1,700 women receiving treatment.
Looking to the future
The latest influx of displaced families is straining capacity to meet children’s needs. UNICEF urgently needs funds to sustain and scale up humanitarian assistance for displaced, vulnerable children and women at Jalozai, Togh Serai and New Durrani camps and for those living in host communities. UNICEF requires US$30.9 million to meet their needs.
Having found some measure of safety and care, Jan is resigned to her family’s immediate future. “We will stay at the camp until it’s safe to go back to our village and we can rebuild.”
Still, she is looking forward to returning when she can. “I liked my life at home,” she said.