World Refugee Day: Pakistan IDPs Face Second Crisis
Friday, June 19, 2009
On World Refugee Day, a second crisis looms over more than 3 million displaced people in Pakistan as a severe shortage of sanitation facilities has led to outbreaks of disease.
Unsanitary living conditions have caused waterborne diseases and skin conditions to spread quickly amongst the displaced populations and local communities. Islamic Relief health teams have noted frequent cases of diarrhea, scabies, and malaria, all of which can be deadly, especially for young children.
Islamic Relief's assessments of schools and homes where displaced people are sheltering have revealed that around 60 percent have no sanitation facilities or are in urgent need of repair. In almost half of these schools and houses water systems also need to be built or repaired.
One school in Khairabad houses more than 450 displaced people, yet Islamic Relief engineers did not find a single working restroom. At another school in Gul Bahar, displaced families had no source of water.
Islamic Relief aid worker Sultan Mahmood said:
"In the schools and houses I have visited nearly every family has a member suffering from diarrhoea or scabies as a result of poor sanitation facilities and unhygienic living conditions. I have seen up to 20 people sharing one small room, and with so many people living so close to each other these diseases are spreading fast."
Islamic Relief health teams are concerned that as the monsoon season approaches these problems will get considerably worse. Every year the monsoon floods the region causing rates of malaria and waterborne diseases to soar. This year, with the influx of so many extra people, the impact is likely to be much more severe.
Islamic Relief is constructing restrooms, washing areas, hand pumps, and is carrying out hygiene awareness sessions in schools and households sheltering displaced people in Mardan District. We are also providing free healthcare at local health centers through mobile health teams. These services are helping displaced people and the local community in 26 villages.
Jerome Akram, Islamic Relief's Worldwide Head of Programs, said:
"...Although most of the displaced people are not living in tents in camps, they are still facing very real difficulties, not least the serious health concerns we are witnessing."
Displaced Children Long for Home
Eight-year-old Aziz fled from his village of Pir Baba in Buner with his parents and siblings almost two months ago. Since then, they have been living in a school in Surkh Dheri, where they are having trouble meeting their daily needs.
Aziz attends Islamic Relief's Mercy Center in Surkh Dheri where he is provided with food, a safe place to play, education and most importantly, psychosocial counseling.
He told Islamic Relief aid workers that he is very homesick and wishes he could return to his village. Excerpts from what Aziz told them are below:
"I miss my home so much; I miss my village and my friends and the fruit trees by my house. We had peach, pear and orange trees. I miss my home all the time; that is why I feel sad.
I don't know why we are living in a school and not a house. I did not know people can stay at school because schools are for children to study.
When the fighting started in my village I was so scared. There were helicopters and some buildings near my house were destroyed. I was very afraid and I used to hide behind my bed. But I have got used to these feelings so I do not get as upset anymore.
I have six brothers and seven sisters. My sister Sahar was very scared when we left our house and she screamed and fainted but she is better now. I am glad we are not living in a dangerous area anymore because I feel much happier.
I used to enjoy going to school but we aren't going anymore. I had a lot of friends at school who I liked to play games with. I have made new friends at this centre and at the school where we live and we have fun together. The people at the centre are very nice and they play games with us and make us feel better, and I like that.
War is not good for my village. I want there to be peace there and I want to go back to my home very soon."
You can help comfort the children suffering from this conflict by supporting Islamic Relief's mercy centers.
Worker Visits School Turned Shelter: People are "Suffering"
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Islamic Relief staff member Helen Mould is in northwest Pakistan visiting the displaced persons who have fled the conflict zone. In her diary she writes about her run-ins with "people [who] routinely struggle to access the basic necessities of life." Mould saw people living in miserable conditions without access to water or sanitation facilities. Her most recent diary entry is below:
Yesterday, I spent some time at the Government Boys High School in Char Gulli where Islamic Relief is installing new bathrooms and hand-pumps. This school is sheltering more than 450 displaced people who have made the various classrooms their homes.
Sheets have been strung between the rooms to try and offer some privacy but inside the classrooms people have nothing. The floors are bare and dirty, the windows broken, and there is no furniture apart from a few blankets. There is not a working restroom in the whole school and nowhere for people to wash.
This school is home to one-month-old Laila who is living here with her sister and two brothers and their uncle's family. Laila is suffering from scabies and diarrhea as a result of the unsanitary conditions she is living in. She is clearly very ill and I worry about how her family will be able to care for her in such difficult circumstances.
I hope that the clean water and sanitation facilities Islamic Relief is providing will help to prevent further spread of disease amongst other children at the school. But I am also concerned about the many other little girls like Laila who are sick and suffering, but who have no help at all.
Pregnant Women in Desperate Need of Healthcare
Monday, June 22, 2009
Demand for maternal health services has soared amongst the displaced women in northwest Pakistan.
A lack of adequate healthcare, poor diet and the stress of displacement are putting the lives of pregnant women and their babies at risk.
Nayyer Khaled knows the reality of this situation better than anyone. She supervises the team of Lady Health Workers (LHWs) in Char Gulli, where Islamic Relief has established a health team to provide medical care to the displaced people and the local community.
Khaled recently shared her experiences from the field:
"There are many displaced people from Buner and Swat in this village, and amongst them many pregnant women. Their health has been seriously affected by the difficult journeys they have made and the conditions they are now living in.
The other day I met one-month-old Laila who had been born as her mother Reesalat, journeyed through the mountains. Reesalat had given birth without any medical assistance and was traumatized by the conflict she was fleeing from.
After the birth she was in a lot of pain and was bleeding heavily but she did not receive any healthcare. Tragically, 12 days after giving birth she passed away.
Reesalat's family are convinced that the stress of the shelling and bombing in her village, and the difficult journey lead to her death.
I have also come across many displaced women in this village who have given birth prematurely as a result of the stress they have been through. In this village alone I know of five babies who have been born recently to displaced women. They were all born prematurely and none of them survived."
Please support Islamic Relief's efforts to help the displaced in desperate need of assistance. Donate today. www.irw.org
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