“The twins were born as the mother desperately struggled with the pangs of pain, the sound of falling artillery shells, the suffocation of gun powder and the stench of decaying dead bodies. By the time it was morning, the family realized that one of the two babies, had not survived the ordeal of childbirth. The one who had said good bye to life, shared the same bed with the one who was still clinging to it. There was no way that a burial could be held in a curfew. Suddenly there were frantic announcements for a 2 hour curfew break asking the residents to vacate the valley as soon as possible. The family hurriedly packed their humble belongings, picked up the new born and dashed out of their home into one of the many cramped trucks headed towards Mardan. It was some where close to Dargai, that the unfortunate mother realised that she was carrying the dead child, while the living one had been left behind.” This heart breaking story was narrated by a doctor who treated this shattered family at Sahakot. This may just be one glimpse of the untold trauma faced by the millions of fleeing residents of Swat. Little did they know that their suffering and agony would appear diminutive in comparison to what lay ahead in the days to come.
The Rangmaala relief camp located at the very top of Malakand, close to the borders of Swat and Buner, provides the first opportunity that a displaced family can avail as a shelter. The camp set up by the Red Crescent Society of Pakistan houses 4600 persons (702 families) and is by far the most well organized refugee camp. The government has provided various support services, including electricity and cooked food. Each family has received a tent, a mat, a cooler, a fan, a bucket, a kitchen set and a hygiene set. There are common toilets, washing area and a dispensary. From the point of view of the organizers, they have provided all that was needed to make Rangmaala a model camp. There should be no further cause for a complaint. This is the first conceptual mistake made in a relief process, when people become numbers and the relief goods become check-lists. None of the organizers had actually spent even one day in a tent, lined up for food or visited the toilet even once to get a personal experience of what it was like to live in a camp. The temperature inside the tents where the women remain motionlessly seated like toasts in an oven was at least 10 degrees higher than outside. People and buckets queued up three times a day to surrender their dignity in return for a few mugs of the yellow liquid called ‘daal’ and the toilets’ hygiene permitted visits only in situations of unbearable duress.
Report by Wali Haider from ROOTS
Talking to the displaced people in various IDP camps, or in the homes of friends/relatives during my recent visit to Takht Bhai and Charsadda they have taken refuge it is obvious that for them the objectives of the army operation remain unclear. At the same time their suffering as IDPs are manifold.
According to a social worker at a camp in Takht Bhai,, the government is providing two maund of wheat, four kilo dal, five kg cooking oil, five kg sugar, one packet salt, 250 gram of tea to each registered IDP; the rations are provided on a monthly basis.
People have to stand in lines to get their quota; they queue up early in the day and spend the day waiting for their turn. There are few distribution points and sometimes they have to go again the next day.
This is an abridged version that was published on 4th June in The News extracted from a recent report by AIRRA (Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy) based in Peshawar, whose members traveled to the IDP camps for these interviews.
We write here some of the stories the women of Swat told us. They come from Kabbal, Mingawera (Mingora), Qambar, Kanju and other parts of Swat. Some are from Buner and Maidan in Lower Dir. Their lives were affected in many more ways than the lives of their men.
When we entered the large tent a few women looked up and smiled. Some got up and put out their hands to greet us. They seemed surprised that we could converse in the same language. “Sit down. We can’t even offer you tea” said one laughing, “look at us and what we have been reduced to.” Their children were lying on the floor, red because of the heat, tired and listless in the hot air of the fans. The women had been sitting in silence before we went in. We could hear no noise from the tent which was full of about forty women and children. What could they share with each other? Each story was the same as the other. It was a pall of misery and silences that hung over their heads. These women were lucky; they had a common place to come to, out of their tents. In most camps, the women sit in the heat of the tents, not being allowed to go out. They wait for their men to come before they can use the toilets. Their children defecate outside the tents as they cannot take them to the toilets. In some schools, they feed their children first and, at times, do not eat.
On May 15th, 2009, a good friend, renowned blogger and dentist Dr. Awab Alvi emailed his contacts for collecting and distributing relief goods to Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) in N.W.F.P. Having prior experience of working with flood victims in Sindh and Balochistan with Indus Resource Centre (IRC), I jumped onto the opportunity of helping fellow Pakistanis displaced in the beautiful valleys up North.
I shared a list of family hampers with Awab, used by IRC for relief of flood victims. A single hamper comprises of a bag with food items and some utensils for one family, of an average six persons.
A Severe Health Crisis:
There are 66,000 pregnant women living at the relief camps in Pakistan and many of them are likely to give birth in the next three months, the UN has said. Displaced children need special health and nutrition assistance as well as access to primary and emergency medical care to prevent disease. With the dire conditions, these people are living in there is a serious threat of an epidemic spreading in the camps.
Termed as the worst humanitarian crisis that Pakistan has experienced. UNHCR reports that there are 2.2 million people displaced. Conditions for the conflict areas are a cause of concern since access to water, electricity and health care is extremely limited. Fighting and a general lack of security have disrupted supply chains in Dir, Buner and Swat, making goods – food in particular – scarce and expensive. In addition, frequent curfews make it difficult for people to obtain whatever basic services do happen to be available in their towns and villages. In Mingora, for example, the Swat district’s main hospital is now abandoned and water and electricity have been cut off for over a week.
Our Swat Relief drive on Day 3 [Saturday] was hectic to say the least. We [Hasnain, Youshey, me & Faris] left Peshawar around 9am without breakfast, our aim was to start bright and early to first head to Bagheecha Deri where around 150 bags had been delivered a night before stored safely in Inam’s house.
Enroute we received news that the third truck from Makro Lahore was also reaching Mardan and it was then we decided to split our teams, Faris and I continued to Baghecha Deri whilst Youshey and Hasnain would escort the truck to our warehouse in Takht Bhai, oversee the offloading and prepare for the delivery of 250 hampers to refugee families housed within the Takht Bhai region.
Despite our insistence, Inam had not assembled a crowd at Bagheecha Deri as we arrived on location town and quickly requested a few local maluvis to announce the availability of relief aid. Within moments we had a small crowd, this being our first experience with distribution we had a small confusion, documentation was needed and we requested only those refugees with an ID card as well as the Yellow social services relief card. In the meley we were worried about locals falsely claiming to be refugees, which was tough but kept to a minimum to the extent that we had to bluntly refuse hampers to a few very vocal and insistent pathans. The other strategy we tried to deploy was to confiscate the ID card and the Yellow refugee registration card until our processing was complete after which a local would carefully distribute these to the rightful owners, this ploy was used to prevent duplication, though locals helping us would quickly identify the offender but there was a chance a sneaky IDP might get through the loop.
Pictures from Day 3, Saturday 23rd May when we distributed our relief hampers across Mardan, commentary to follow.
Have just reached Peshawar, the initial plan was to rendezvous with my friend coming from Karachi but due to unavoidable medical reason got held back. I am now awaiting a call from Inam who was supposed to reach Bgheecha Deri by bus, I expect that too be delayed as his cell phone is powered off probably due to drained out battery. Ill wait up about an hour here in Peshawar and if I don’t hear from Inam by 4pm ill head out towards Mardan and Bagheecha Deri for the scout report.
Faris is in Lahore overseeing the Makro shipment – mashallah we had a few last minute contribution pushing the grand total closer to Rs 29,00,000 [Rs. 2.9 Million] the items will be added to the delivery at Makro Lahore. Once the trucks are loaded Faris will head by bus to Peshawar while we will plan to meetup with the truck the next day.