In a recent assessment of displaced persons living in Chota Lahore Camp (Yar Hussain Mera) in Swabi District, Pakistan, International Medical Corps found that financial hardship and depression are two of the most pressing issues facing the displaced. The assessment, which involved focus groups of displaced males and females between 10 and 60 years of age, also found that the majority of displaced are eager to return home, but fear doing so for lack of resources to rebuild their lives.
“While the displaced want to return to their homes, they do not have the resources they need to do so,” says Sonia Walia, International Medical Corps Regional Coordinator for Asia. “There is no doubt that return will gradually occur, but we must be cautious in encouraging the displaced to go home prematurely. It is critical that the displaced have a secure setting and necessary resources when they do start to return and we, as the international community, must make sure that they have the support they need.”
The focus groups found that financial concerns are the primary issue facing men when considering their return. Most assume that their homes, crops, and livestock were completely destroyed and, because they do not have adequate resources, are worried about being able to rebuild their businesses and lives. Women, on the other hand, are most concerned about their families’ safety, and also worry about how their husbands will be able to provide for the family.
“In addition to making sure that they have basic services, like clean water and electricity, those we surveyed said that the primary support that they need is financial,” says Walia. “Some of their suggestions include teaching women to make handicrafts, employing men through reconstruction projects, and providing small loans to business owners and fertilizer, seeds and tools to farmers.” It was widely agreed upon in focus groups that there is a role for both male and female community members to play in reconstruction efforts. Community involvement will be critical in rebuilding both individual lives and community infrastructure.
The need for mental health support was also made clear. The men, women, and children surveyed identified depression as an issue largely prevalent among the displaced, as well as the need for recreational activities for children and treatment centers to address people’s emotional state upon return.
“War and displacement often takes a severe toll on a population’s mental health,” says Walia. “This crisis is no exception and psychosocial services will be essential for the long-term recovery of those impacted.”
This assessment is the third that International Medical Corps has conducted in its emergency response to the region. International Medical Corps teams are providing 24-hour medical care for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Chota Lahore Camp, seeing more than 600 patients each day. International Medical Corps is also operating three mobile medical units in eight districts of Swabi for host populations and IDPs residing in the community. The organization also supported two overwhelmed hospitals, Swabi District Hospital and Saidu Hospital in Swat Valley by providing the facilities with medicine and supplies.
International Medical Corps was already providing services to those displaced from related military operations in August 2008 in Peshawar, Nowshehra, Charsadda, and Lower Dir. Its emergency relief efforts reached more than 50,000 people with services like health care, water and sanitation, and hygiene promotion. Millions of civilians have fled the Swat valley since the Taliban seized control of Swat’s capital of Mingora on May 3. About a week later the Taliban also pushed into Buner District, an area just 60 miles from the capital of Islamabad. On June 14, the Government of Pakistan began is offensive in South Waziristan, with continued fighting throughout the week. Thousands continue to flee the region.