Tuesday, June 24, 2014

An Unfolding Humanitarian Crisis By Shad Begum

By Shad Begum

Our security forces are fighting a battle for the soul of Pakistan on the Western front. The military operation, namely Zarb-e-Azb, against foreign militants and their local sponsors have displaced almost half a million population from North Waziristan so far. While a grave Humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif has kept a discrete silence about the internally displaced persons (IDPs) and Zarb-e-Azb. After my communication with National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), FATA Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) and Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it appears that the humanitarian response from Nawaz Sharif’s government is poorly coordinated and inadequately executed to address the North Waziristan IDPs crisis.

Most probably, because of security concerns, IDPs have not opted for stay in officially arranged camps by FDMA, particularly after an attack on Toghsari IDP camp in Hangu district. According to updated information by FDMA, 36,831 families have been registered so far out of which 120,101 are men, 173,996 are women, and 192,442 are children. Only 28 families out of 36,831 opted to stay in the Bakka Khel camp in FR Bannu.

The government is providing PKR 12000 cash for each family in the Bakka Khel camp and also to IDPs on check posts during registration. Apart from cash assistance, FDMA is also providing transport and shelter to fleeing IDPs form Waziristan. The Nawaz Sharif government has decided not to take assistance from humanitarian organization including UN agencies. Only World Food Program (WFP) is providing food with support from the government of Pakistan. Perhaps one reason for declining assistance from local and international humanitarian organization is the support mechanism of militants who escape the government net through pro-jihadist welfare organizations as was reported during the Swat IDP crises in 2009. However this should not affect the support work of humanitarian organizations that are politically neutral.

The provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the federal government are not on the same page in addressing the IDP crisis. Most of the IDPs are either staying with their relatives or renting places in the southern districts Bannu, D.I.Khan, Karak, Kohat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. There is no place for registration of or assistance for out-of –camp IDPs. Without a proper plan for scattered IDPs, there will be security consequences, as militants will disappear into populated areas in the shape of IDPs.    

The SAFRON ministry, the NDMA, FDMA and PDMA need better coordination to address the IDP crisis. The decision of the government to disallow the humanitarian organizations for providing assistance to NW IDPs also need to be shared with the public e.g. what is the logic behind this decision? Is the government capable of handling this crisis bay its own?
If yes, then why are IDPS not going to the camps set up for them?

The National Humanitarian Network (NHN) of Pakistan (a civil society network) needs to approach the government authorities and the UN agencies for better understanding of the situation. UNOCHA Pakistan should take the lead on coordinating this effort.

The people of Waziristan belong to a closely knitted tribal society. Whole clans, sub clans and families have been displaced and most likely they will be staying together during this displacement on this clannish/tribal structure basis.

The Deputy Commissioner of the Bannu, D I Khan, Karak and Kohat districts should establish a help line for non-camp IDPs and register them for targeted assistance. It is unfortunate that no mother and child health support is available to the IDPs even in the camps. In this hot summer and without clean drinking water, many mothers and children will lose the battle of life due to preventable diseases such as diarrhea.


The government needs a better IDP assistance strategy to overcome the crisis.


[1] Shad Begum is a human rights activist from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan and a recipient of international women of courage award. She could be reached on shadbegum@gmail.com

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