VIDEO: UNICEF correspondent Anja Baron reports on mounting displacement pressure amid new insecurity in north-western Pakistan.
By David Youngmeyer
JALOZAI, Pakistan, 20 June 2012 – More than 200,000 people – over half of them children – have been registered as displaced from Khyber Agency, in volatile north-western Pakistan, since January. They are joining families displaced by earlier insecurity, creating a total displaced population of close to 720,000 people in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
As families flee to the east to escape violence, children’s lives are being turned upside down. In addition to the physical danger, they face an increased risk of psychological distress, disrupted educations, malnutrition and diseases like measles.
Life in Jalozai camp
Tasleem Khan, 18, and his family left Khyber Agency two months ago, desperate to find a safer place from the renewed insecurity.
“We were doing our normal work at the village when, suddenly, firing started,” Tasleem said. “Some shrapnel hit my niece, who was cooking outside near my house. We saw so many dead bodies of women and children around the village.”
Tasleem walked 7 km from his village before getting a ride to Jalozai camp in Nowshera District, where he slept in the open for two days. After he registered at the camp, his wife Asiya, their 1-year-old daughter Sania, and other family members joined him.
In his village, Tasleem worked on the family farm and was close to finishing high school, but being displaced has disrupted his studies and his income. He now volunteers to set up tents for new arrivals.
Nasrata, 30, arrived at Jalozai 15 days ago from Khyber Agency with her husband and their 10-month-old daughter Madina, along with her husband’s second wife and their four children. They all share a tent.
Nasrata says her home area had been affected by insecurity for the past three years, but things suddenly worsened. “There was shelling and bombing. It went on for a day and a night, and destroyed our house. I saw dead bodies in the village.”
They gave away their livestock and fled with other villagers on foot, then by vehicle. Nasrata was very worried about Madina, who was diagnosed as malnourished at the UNICEF-supported nutrition centre. With therapeutic food and monitoring, Madina’s condition has improved.
“I’m pleased that my daughter could get help,” Nasrata said.
Ensuring continued access to school
Since January, UNICEF and partners have screened over 35,300 displaced children under age 5 and more than 17,000 pregnant and lactating women for acute malnutrition in Jalozai, Togh Serai and New Durrani camps, and other sites in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA. More than 4,400 moderately acutely malnourished children and over 2,200 pregnant and lactating women were enrolled for treatment.
Although most families choose to live outside the camp in host communities, Jalozai is now home to 51,700 people.
Khobana Ibrahim, 14, has lived at Jalozai for three years. Her family fled insecurity in their village in Khyber Agency. Khobana said her school was destroyed, her house was damaged and some of her neighbours were injured.
“It is still too dangerous to go back,” she said.
But living at the camp has meant that Khobana has been able to continue her education. UNICEF is supporting 15 camp schools reaching more than 5,900 children.
“I like getting an education,” Khobana said at a UNICEF-supported school. “The teachers are hard-working and want us to get educated and have some chance in life. I want to become a doctor so that I can serve my people.”
UNICEF is working with the government and partners to provide humanitarian assistance to displaced children and families in Jalozai, Togh Serai and New Durrani camps, as well as in host communities, and in areas of return.
UNICEF provides daily safe drinking water to 77,700 people, and is also providing latrines and bathing facilities, and has distributed hygiene kits, buckets and jerry cans to 33,000 families living either at Jalozai camp or in host communities.
In April, more than 44,000 children between 6 months and 15 years old were vaccinated for measles at Jalozai camp and surrounding areas, and over 32,000 children have received polio vaccinations. UNICEF is also supporting 41 Protective Learning and Community Emergency Services (PLaCES) and child protection centres in camps and host communities.
Still, the influx of displaced families is placing considerable pressure on the infrastructure of Jalozai camp and host communities. The camp population continues to grow, and the capacity to deliver humanitarian services in the camp is nearly overstretched. The dispersal of families in host communities has also complicated efforts to reach them with assistance.
UNICEF needs an additional US$37.2 million to sustain and scale-up humanitarian assistance for displaced, vulnerable children and women living in Jalozai, Togh Serai and New Durrani camps, and in host communities. Assistance is also needed for families who are able to return to their home areas.