While media and public attention has largely shifted away from the issue of Internally Displaced People (IDP), the fact is that life still remains tough for them. The flow of people moving out of Khyber Agency, mainly from the conflict-torn Bara tehsil, continues with their numbers increasing by the day. The process began in January. According to the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, over 208,000 individuals are now registered at Jalozai Camp as IDPs.
International humanitarian agencies involved in the process of collecting preliminary data, have found that a significant portion of IDPs living outside Jalozai are food insecure. A very large number do not collect the food rations they are entitled to. The contributing factors to this being confusion over the timing of distribution and the high cost of transportation among other reasons. Many of these IDPs also need to travel many kilometres to gain access to any healthcare while shortages of other vital items are also commonplace. A majority of women who were breastfeeding infants have stopped doing so, adding to the health concerns of their young. The reasons are unclear, but may be linked to living in the crowded homes of near-strangers.
The problem for humanitarian agencies arises because only 15 per cent of those listed as IDPs choose to live on camp sites. The remainder have opted to move in with relatives or into rented accommodation, for reasons linked to tradition, culture and concerns about privacy for women. This pattern was noticed when mass displacements began due to the conflict in 2009, and the agencies conceded they were taken unaware by the strongly rooted trend of the IDPs to make their own arrangements instead of choosing the agencies. Hence, they were unable to cater to their needs. But now that this is an established phenomenon more needs to be done to ensure help also reaches those living away from camps and some method needs to be found to offer them the assistance they require.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2012.