Forced to leave everything - yet again Pakistan in May 2009 - People are fleeing en masse from the fighting between Pakistani government forces and Islamist extremists.
Forced to leave everything - yet again
Pakistan in May 2009 - People are fleeing en masse from the fighting between Pakistani government forces and Islamist extremists.
Some 2.5 million people have fled the fighting. Many of them are now living in camps, cooped up in tents far away from home. Udo Stolte visited two of the camps. He reports:
Our first port of call was the ”Jalozai Camp”. The Pakistani army is providing protection for the IDPs – and on this day, for us too. The camp appears to be well organized. In addition to the army, the relevant UN organizations are also involved in the work. The IDPs are receiving food, drinking water and have the necessary facilities to survive. But the heat is a problem. It’s May 23rd, the air is humid and it’s 42 degrees Celsius (108°F) in the shade – except there is no shade here. The people are in tents or outside in the open air. We ask how we can help. “Water coolers, fans, shelters for shade,” they reply. We have built simple shelters for shade in refugee camps in the past. We could do the same here. There are around 100,000 people in the camp, with more arriving every day. We leave Jalozai and move on to the ”Benazir Camp”, a small facility with around 400 families (2500 people). As we arrive they are receiving fresh drinking water from an incoming truck. ”We only started getting drinking water three days ago,” they say. Others tell us they’ve been waiting for weeks for their food rations. These people have been here since last September, when fighting broke out in their home district of Bajour near the Afghan border. The area is now allegedly ”clean” – or free of militants. So the people can return home. ”But how can we go back?” they call out. ”Our homes and our businesses have been destroyed!” I feel helpless and have no answer for them. ”Many children will die this summer,” one man tells me emphatically. In this area, summer temperatures go up to 50 degrees Celsius (122°F) with a high level of humidity. We are also considering installing sun shelters here too. But most of the IDPs – around 80 percent – are not living in the camps; they have been put up by relatives and friends instead. At least that means they have a roof over their heads. But we do not yet know what conditions they are living in. Presumably many houses designed for two families are now having to accommodate around eight families. We want to find out what help they need. There’s certainly a lot to do. It’s a major challenge for us, and we will need financial support. If you would like to support this project, please mark your donation with the term "IDP" or "Project 20160". Thank you. Update from 06.06.2009: 3.5 million people have now fled their homes to escape the fighting.