Winter Brings Miseries To IDPs Living In Jalozai Camp
Contributors: Gohar Wazir, Nabi Jan Orakzai, Gul Muhammad Mohmand, Ayub Bitani, Bakhtawar Wazir and Mehrab Afridi
PESHAWAR, Feb 10: Frequent military operations have been conducted by the government to restore peace in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) over the last ten years. As a result thousands of people were displaced from their homes to resettle in safer places all over the country.
Make-shift camps were made to accommodate displaced tribal people by the government in different areas of KP and FATA.These camps include Jalozai in Noshera, Baka Khel in FR Bannu, Durrani camp in Sada and New Durrani camp in Kohat.
As peace began returning to the area, the government started phase-wise repatriation process of the displaced persons back in 2010 which is still in progress. There are still few pockets in the tribal belt which are yet to be cleared by the military. The people of these areas are still living in camps.
The former governor of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sardar Mahtab repeatedly said that peace had been restored in most of the areas in FATA after being cleared from the militants. The fresh phase of sending around 2 million IDPs back to North Waziristan, South Waziristan and Khyber Agency started in March 2015. According to FDMA, over 100000 families have returned to their hometowns in the three aforementioned tribal agencies so far. The ex-governor Mehtab Ahmad Khan announced that all the internally displaced people (IDPs) would be returned to their hometowns by the end of 2016.
The month of January 2016 witnessed a freezing cold in KP and FATA. Usually, people keep themselves warm in the chilling weather by adopting different techniques such as lighting fire, wearing warm cloths, using hot water etc. The winter was even more severe for displaced tribal population living in camps.
In order to know how the displaced people living in the temporary camps survived the freezing cold, TNN correspondent Bakhtawar Wazir visited the Jalozai IDPs camp in Noshera and talked to the inhabitants about their problems. “A tent is not like a home. We do not have facilities to protect ourselves from cold in the tents we are living in. These tents do not resist the freezing cold. Most of our children got ill due to extreme cold. They had fever, they had throat and chest infections”, says one of the residents of the camp.
Besides children, the extreme cold weather also affects elderly people and female. Specially, those female who are in post-natal stage need proper temperature. He adds “we cannot give them due nursing and care to the female. We do not have the luxury to light fire inside the tents as a result most of the minor kids, the elderly people and female get ill”.
The unavailability of proper health facilities further multiplies their miseries. “Due to the unavailability of hospitals and healthcare system, we do not get timely treatment” he complains.
Another man living in the camp reveals “the tents provided to us have become damaged with the passage of time. The authorities did not give us any winter package this year. A child in our neighborhood died the other day due to extreme cold”.
Everyone is not capable to live in a rented house. Those who have the resources prefer to rent homes but the poor ones prefer to stay in camps. “Somehow, we feel easy in the daytime but as the sun sets, it becomes difficult to live in the tents.
The quilts and blankets provided to us are not good enough to shield us from the cold. Lighting fire is also impossible as none of us afford to purchase wood” Khwaja Muhamamd a displaced person from Khyber Agency describes the grim situation faced by the inhabitants of the Jalozai camp. “I have planned to relocate my family from the camp to a rented house as there is extreme cold in the camp” he intends.
Though repatriation have been completed to Bajaur Agency long ago, still there are few families from the agency are living in the camp.They complain of not being treated like other on-camp IDPs from Bara sub-division of Khyber Agency. One of them told TNN “the camp administration is doing favoritism in distribution of relief items. They give relief items to the IDPs of Khyber agency but nothing to the people of Bajaur agency”.
The Jalozai camp was established in 1980 to accommodate the Afghan refugees who were fleeing Russian’s aggression against their country. Since most of the IDPs have returned to their hometowns in FATA from the camp recently, still it houses more than 500 families of Khyber, Bajuar and Mohmand agencies.
Seventy years old Amanullah who has been displaced from the remote Tirah of Khyber Agency, complains like thousands other IDPs of having nothing to cope with the freezing cold. Amanullah comes out of his tent when the sun becomes brighten enough to get his body warm. “Our houses have been destroyed both in Tirah and Bara Kajhoori and are suffering here in the camp due to our misfortune. We have lost everything in the conflict”, he says.
Bilal, a resident of Bajaur Agency says the IDPs have been passing extremely miserable situation due to the non availability of facilities in the camp.“Most of the camp inhabitants are suffering from different diseases. A number of IDPs died due to cold. I am not feeling well too. Quite a few are ill in my neighborhood. The basic reason is that our accommodations are not good enough to resist cold. If it rains, all the water leaks into our tents,” he says.
The lack of electricity and gas in the camp have forced the dwellers particularly kids and elderly women to collect firewood from the nearby surroundings to light fire in the evening. Saima, a teenage girl from Bara Khyber Agency, starts her day by leaving her tented house in the morning to collect some firewood for her family from here and there.
“I have four sisters and a brother. All are younger to me. My father does not want me to go to school. I collect wood from the surrounding areas to use it as fuel in the in the nevening as there is extreme cold in the night time,” says Saima while carrying a pile of wood over her head.
An elderly woman sitting in front of her tent, says they are passing through a miserable condition in the camp. “We have lots of problems. Most of our family members including children are sick. The little ones bring wood from the nearby orchards and field which we burn to get warm in the night,” she adds.
There is a godown of firewood in the Muhajar bazaar(refugee bazaar) near the Jalozai camp. Its owner Fazal Subhan says his business flourishes in the winter as the demand for firewood increases. The people living in the camp use these wood for cooking as well as heating up against the freezing cold.
Talking to TNN, Raina, a general protection officer in the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) says they had started a project of setting up shelters to provide protection to the IDPs from the chilling cold but the activity was abandoned when the repatriation process was started in early January.“More than 300 families were identified and we had started setting up of shelters. We had almost set up 160 shelters but in the meantime we were informed that the government is repatriating the people of Sipah tribe to their hometown. So the project was halted. Now we will give tents and shelter to the IDPs on their return”, she says.
To know that what kind of media support has been provided to the IDPs, TNN correspondent Nabi Jan Orakzai conducted an interview with the medical officer of the camp, Dr Zeeshan. The first question he put to Dr Zeshan was about the weather effects on the lives of camp residents.
Medical Officer Dr. Zeeshan: First of all I would like to say that this winter we did not have enough rainfall due to which the atmosphere is dusty and chances of allergy are high. This allergy leads to further complications like throat infections, cough, flu and fever etc.
Nabi Jan: How could the camp inhabitants know they are affected by seasonal diseases?
Dr. Zeeshan: It is natural. Whenever you have some complication, your body bears specific symptoms which tell you about a particular disease. In winter, people usually have fever. They high temperature, feel body pain, cough, running nose due to flu and sometimes they have sinusitis. All these are symptoms of seasonal diseases.
Nabi Jan: How the IDPs are treated when they fall ill?
Dr. Zeeshan: If someone gets a health related problem, in the first instance he/she should go the hospital and see a doctor. It is not a big issue. It is normal in this season and people usually recover soon. Anyhow, it is better to consult a physician to control the disease in its initial stage. We usually advise anti-biotics and pain killers to the patients.
Nabi Jan: Do you have any management plan to keep the camp inhabitants safe from diseases?
Dr. Zeeshan: We do not have enough resources otherwise we should have one. The government should have provided clean drinking water to the people. The people should be given mask to be safe from allergy. We should also adopt cleanliness in our daily life.
Nabi Jan: Do you get sufficient medicines for the IDPs?
Dr. Zeeshan: Yes, we get sufficient medicines for the IDPs.
Nabi Jan: How many patients visit the hospital on daily basis?
Dr. Zeeshan: We check round about 130 patients daily.
All the residents of the camps are equally vulnerable to the harsh winter due to lack of facilities. But little is known about the plight of women living in the Jalozai camp due to their no or less interaction with outside world. One lady from Bajaur Agency in the camp is willing to share her story from displacement to resettlement in the camp and the difficulties she and her family went through during the freezing cold in a tented house.
The lady, who wishes not be named due to social and tribal constraints, lost both of her legs in an act of terrorism. “I was fetching water from a stream in Bajaur Agency. I received bullets in my legs while on way back to home. Since then, I am handicapped. Later on, we mortgaged our home and property. We sold out the home in village due militancy and conflict. The whole family was shattered. I used to crawl on ground before getting my synthetic legs. My husband died after suffering a heart attack as he could not bear all these stresses” she narrates.
She had happy life in the village especially in winter and she still reminisces those days “Let me tell you in detail. With the arrival of winter, we used to collect lots of wood. We had an oven in which we used to lit fire to keep the large room warm. We used to take quilts and sit around the oven in the freezing cold.” While telling her arrival at camp she says when we first came here (in the camp), we were given tents, quilts, blankets and every other items of our need. For about six to seven years, we were given quilts and other utensils as part of winter package. But now the process is stopped. Comparing her past days with the present situation in the camp she adds “Initially, every facility was available to us but now time has changed. There is no gas or firewood which we can use as fuel. Our kids are hungry and they have nothing to eat”.
Citing the camp officials, she says there is no more ration for the IDPs of Bajaur. The kids are no more going to schools. Now they wander in the surroundings collecting wood and other items which we use as fuel to cook meal. “We need quilts, blankets, gas, firewood and ration. We are three or four families and large number of kids” she says and adds that she planned several times to meet the chief administrator of the camp and ask him to give her a blanket so that she could wrap it around her legs in the freezing cold but then she decided against it, thinking he might refuse and she will get embarrassed. “All my family members are ill. My children have been suffering from typhoid. I cannot afford to consult a physician nor could I purchase firewood. I use cold water for bathing and making ablution for prayer” she reveals.”I have no one except Allah. I am sitting here on Allah’s mercy. The camp administration has disconnected power supply long ago. When the people returned to their homes, they winded up all the power cables. That is why there is complete dark in the evening” she explains saying “Though there is no facility in the cam available to us. The only advantage I have while living here in the tent is that I have no tension of paying rent and utility bills.”
This is a transcript of radio magazine program “Da Manzal Pa Lor”on the issues faced by Temporarily Displaced Persons (TDPs) from FATA. The program is produced by TNN’s producers Shan Muhammad and Abdul Qayyum Afridi in Pashtu language for broadcast on six radio stations in FATA and KP. Da Manzal Pa Lor aims at highlighting the problems faced by TDPs as well as bridging the gap between the government, humanitarian agencies and the displaced population.