Last Updated: Thursday, 24 April 2014, 11:39 GMT

Pakistan: IDP hosts under pressure

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 29 June 2009
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Pakistan: IDP hosts under pressure, 29 June 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a4c81b7c.html [accessed 25 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

LAHORE, 29 June 2009 (IRIN) - "I and my family of seven are living with strangers... They are kind people, from the NWFP [North West Frontier Province] who speak our language and know our ways - but they are poor themselves and cannot afford to feed seven more mouths," said Mansur Khan, 50, from a village near Kalam in Pakistan's troubled Swat District.

He moved to Lahore in eastern Pakistan two weeks ago and has been out on the street offering his services as a casual labourer, but despite being fit and strong, no-one has offered him any work, and he said he was becoming desperate.

There is growing concern regarding the strain imposed by internally displaced persons (IDPs) on host families. According to the UK-based Islamic Relief (IR) in Pakistan, 3.7 million IDPs are based outside camps, mainly with host families and most of them in the Mardan District of NWFP.

"Since the start of this crisis IR has focused its work on supporting IDPs staying with host communities", Niyaz Muhammad, IR's media and public relations officer in Pakistan, told IRIN.

"The host families have shown great generosity by offering space and support in the form of food, water, and clothing to the IDPs, but they are struggling to cope and their situation is now no better than that of the IDPs," Muhammad said.

Similar concerns have been voiced by UN agencies. The UN humanitarian coordinator in Pakistan, Martin Mogwanja, told a news conference on 18 June in Islamabad that while some of the IDPs had moved into tented camps set up by aid agencies and the government, "most are staying with friends or relatives in so-called host communities."

Mogwanja said in some places "scores of people" were crammed into a couple of rooms, and despite the distribution of massive amounts of food and other supplies "the strain on communities is still immense."

On 25 June, the UN Information Centre in Islamabad said in a press release: "The vast majority of the approximately two million IDPs continue to still be accommodated by host communities, which presents its own challenges in terms of reaching the most vulnerable among them."

Drift to the camps?

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), some IDPs report host families running short of money, and being forced to move into camps. Others say the initial generosity from villagers had dried up.

Growing numbers of displaced "feel that they cannot stay forever as guests in host families who themselves are often quite poor," said UNHCR field officer Shankar Chauhan. As a result, "more and more are starting to move to camps."

The numbers who are moving to camps from host families is growing, but the UN and some NGOs, including IR, say the "vast majority" of IDPs remain based with hosts.

Farooq Ali, who is hosting Mansur Khan, concedes there are difficulties. "I live in an apartment that has just three small rooms. I have a family of eight. It is hard to accommodate seven more, I admit - but it is our duty to do what we can to help," he told IRIN. Farooq, who earns Rs 9,000 [US$113] per month as a messenger with a courier company is currently supporting 15 people on that income.

Support hubs

Muhammad said that IR was running "Mercy Centres" which are "operating as hubs to provide a package of support to IDPs". He said host families were also "feeling the effects of this displacement crisis" despite the fact that all services were being offered to them as well as to the IDPs.

IDPs such as Khan are aware their hosts are bearing a big burden, but he asks: "Where are we to go? We are told the facilities in camps are now better but my aged parents are with me and refuse to shift there, because they do not wish to live ?like beggars'."

In Peshawar, provincial capital of NWFP, a relative of Khan, Muhammad Ghiasullah, also based with a host family, said: "There have been cases here of hosts asking IDPs to leave."

Despite the attempts by relief agencies to reach IDPs outside camps through hubs and by focusing efforts on their plight, aid workers and observers say their presence is becoming a burden for hosts and the strain of this is being felt both by the IDPs and the families they live with.

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