Militant threats: Aid organisations suspend operations at Jalozai

Residents panicked by closure, fear food scarcity.

Umer Farooq June 28, 2013
The World Food Programme, UNHCR, UNICEF, WHO as well as 16 Pakistan-based non-governmental organisations care for basic needs at the camp. PHOTO: FILE


Both local and international aid organisations have been asked to close down their offices at the Jalozai Camp following threats of a terrorist attack.

Jalozai Camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) is home to tens of thousands of people displaced from the tribal belt.

Officials from the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) told The Express Tribune law enforcement agencies informed camp management on Tuesday that militants had planned to carry out an attack, specifically to target large gatherings.

“We received information from intelligence agencies about the threats to Jalozai,” said a PDMA official requesting anonymity. He added as soon as the threat is averted, operations will be resumed.

Currently, nearly 12,000 families or 72,000 internally displaced persons reside at the camp. Of these, 40% are children. The World Food Programme, UNHCR, UNICEF, World Health Organization as well as 16 Pakistan-based non-governmental organisations care for basic needs at the camp.

The announcement for closing down offices of aid groups have panicked those displaced. Residents of the camp fear they may face food scarcity if the organisations pull out.

“It’s been very difficult for us since we have left our homes in search of shelter. This is not the first time supplies have been suspended. Earlier food supply was lessened and then stopped,” said Ali Afridi, who belongs to Khyber Agency. We left our homes hoping that the international community will help us, but now that door too, seems to be shutting down, he added.

Seventeen people, including women and children, were killed and 28 others wounded when a car bomb tore through the camp in March as scores of people queued for rations. Humaira Parveen, a social worker from Peshawar, was also among the dead.

Security was tightened after the March 21 blast. But just nine days after, on March 30, a bomb was spotted near a handicraft centre at the camp. Following the incident, the UNHCR postponed the registration of internally displaced persons from Tirah valley and food distribution was stopped till a new security plan was chalked out.

The camp in district Nowshera has been hosting people displaced by conflict since the USSR-led war in Afghanistan when a large number of Afghan refugees settled in Pakistan. In the past few years, the camp has also become home to thousands of residents from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas that have been displaced by military operations against militants.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2013.


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