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June 8, 2009

Displaced persons outside camps need immediate attention


Web Desk
June 8, 2009

SWABI: Like innumerable children at camps for the internally displaced persons (IDPs), helicopters continue to frighten seven-year-old Azra of Kalpanrai town, Buner, whenever they appear in the skies of Swabi to transport VVIPs.

“Not only children, but our women run towards their tents when they see any chopper in the sky as they had to leave their homes amid jets and choppers shelling their villages in search of militants. Some of them fall unconscious when they hear the sound of helicopters and planes,” said Mohammad Rafiq, an elder of Kalpanrai village settled in Aman-1 camp for the IDPs at Shewa Adda.

Azra is the youngest among her six sisters and two brothers. She was a first grader at a local government school in Kalpanrai when her family had to move to Swabi while walking for hours over mountains to secure their lives. “I miss my school and my home too,” the girl said.

A philanthropist has given the children at Aman-1 camp books so that they continue their informal studies. “We are planning to establish schools for girls and boys in all Aman camps,” said Wilayat Shah, an elder and top social figure of Swabi, who is looking after nine camps by the name of Aman and one named as Umeed Camp that are hosting thousands of families.

The administration of the Aman tent village has set up a mini play-land with swings, seesaws and slides inside the camp to keep them engaged. A community centre has also been established to arrange gatherings for the elders.

Tube-wells have been installed at all the camps being provided with tents by the Shelter Box, NRSP and Muslim Hands. Many living in ordinary tents feel jealous of those living in the heat absorbent state-of-the-art tents provided by international organisations to Aman-2 camp.

People still continue to come down from Swat and other parts of Malakand to take refuge in Swabi and Mardan. “We have been directed by the authorities to leave the area after which we,

45 people, had to rush down to Swabi,” stated Bashir Mohammad, who was living in a hujra at Swabi after leaving Swat on Saturday.

He said it was still unclear as to what really was going on and how long the army would take to clear the area. “The people of Swabi did a great job by hosting them at their homes before the establishment of tented villages by various organisations. Not only the dwellers of Swabi and Mardan, but people from across the country and abroad have also extended help to the IDPs in these trying moments,” said Engineer Usman Khan, MNA from the area.

The legislator said that over 15,000 inhabitants of various camps had been provided all kind of facilities so they do not feel alone in these hard times.

Although commendable efforts have been made by local philanthropists to support the guests at IDP camps, many facilities are direly needed. “There are long queues for national identity cards. I request the authorities to visit the camps and provide NICs, polio drops, donations and other necessities at their camps to facilitate them,” remarked Mohammad, who was unable to claim any compensation for having an expired NIC.

Many have lost contact with their families while leaving their homes in Malakand. Efforts are needed for the reunion of hundreds of such families. The government is supposed to ensure safety of children and women at various camps, and outside, from the kidnappers and professional criminals who are looking for their preys.

Local NGOs, social welfare organisations and philanthropists are making all-out efforts to meet the requirements of the IDPs at different camps located in all parts of Swabi, Mardan, Nowshera, Charsadda and Peshawar. However, a lot needed to be done to support IDPs, especially those from the middle and upper-middle class living out of tents in rented buildings or with their friends and relatives.

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