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Monday June 17, 2024

Displaced and forgotten

By Editorial Board
May 16, 2024
A representational image of internally displaced persons (IDPs) travelling on the back of a truck. — Reuters/File
A representational image of internally displaced persons (IDPs) travelling on the back of a truck. — Reuters/File

The world is not in a happy place. While the Middle East, Sudan and Ukraine are in the grip of what seem like never-ending wars, other countries are trying hard to manage the economic crisis started right after the Covid-19 pandemic and then exacerbated by the Ukraine war. On top of it, natural disasters and the consequences of climate change like large-magnitude earthquakes, flash floods, and heatwaves over the years have added to the problem. The impact of this upside-down world is now becoming glaringly visible. A combination of these events have led to the internal displacement of a total of 76 million people across the world, according to a new report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. In 2022, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) was 71.1 million, and by the end of 2023, the number jumped up by six per cent. In South Asia, around 3.7 million people were displaced due to disasters and other related events. Pakistan recorded the second-highest number of IDPs in the region – 1.2 million – over a period of almost 10 years (2014-2023). At least 732,000 Pakistanis were displaced in 2023 due to disasters and 23,000 were displaced because of conflicts. A large number of IDPs were recorded in the areas across the country that were badly affected by the 2022 floods.

In an ideal world, countries would have taken measures to ensure that people are safe at their homes. But the last few months have taught that the developed world is more interested in capturing the land left behind by the displaced to maximize its profits. In 2022, when floods left one-third of the country under water, pledges were made by resident and overseas Pakistanis to build the houses and buildings destroyed by the floods. However, the displacement of the people and the fact that they couldn’t return to their homes a year after the floods show that rehabilitation work has not been satisfactory. In 2014, the issue of IDPs was widely debated. As the government launched operations against the TTP, people also asked authorities about their post-operation rehabilitation plan. However, over the years, people have realized that once displaced, the return to the place they once called home becomes almost impossible.

This way of living is unsustainable. Cities where people move often fail to meet their requirements. This results in a state of chaos and often leads to internal fighting over the already scarce resources. We now have a situation where many areas in the country have become ghost towns, with the corporate sector exploiting the available land for their profiteering, while a large concentration of population is settled in the country’s urban areas. It is also quite strange that while Pakistan has over a million of IDPs, no political party talked about their miseries during their election campaigns for the February 8 elections. This report should be a reminder for the government to do whatever is necessary to rehabilitate the displaced and give them the chance to lead a stress-free life.