Last Updated: Monday, 24 November 2014, 15:18 GMT

Pakistan: Life tough for an IDP, tougher still for a disabled IDP's

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 22 July 2010
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Pakistan: Life tough for an IDP, tougher still for a disabled IDP's, 22 July 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c4e8da71c.html [accessed 24 November 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.

PESHAWAR, 22 July 2010 (IRIN) - The cramped rooms of Imdad Khan's small house in Peshawar, capital of the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, are typical of many residences in the area.

Hammocks take up most of the space in one room; a rickety chest of drawers stands against a wall; plastic chairs line another side and children's toys litter the floor. This can only be expected in a home whose four rooms currently accommodate Imdad's own family of six, plus five relatives who have fled fighting in Bajaur Agency, one of seven tribal territories on the Pakistani-Afghan border.

"The children have too little space. It's unsafe to go on the streets so the five children here are always running through the rooms at full speed," said Imdad's wife, Rabia Bibi. But while she says the noise gives her a headache, for others the situation is far worse.

Imdad's aunt, Sidra Bibi, who has been living with him for almost a year after fleeing Bajaur, is partially sighted and cannot easily move on her own. In the cramped house, with furniture that is regularly shifted to try and gain more space, Sidra feels especially helpless.

"I am scared of banging into furniture or tripping over something, and in the kitchen I feel useless because I cannot even locate the stove," she told IRIN. As a result, Sidra spends most of her day on a tiny cot in one corner of the room and must seek help from one of the women or children even to reach the toilet safely.

"In my own home, in our village, everything is familiar so I can go into the courtyard, feed the hens and so on," she said.

According to a 9 July humanitarian update by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there are 1.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Pakistan who, like Sidra, live with host families.

Camp hardship

Life is as hard for most of the disabled at the five remaining IDP camps in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which OCHA said house some 105,000 people.

"For those who are old or have problems with their mobility, it's hard to get to the sanitation areas or to move beyond their tent blocks," Faiz Uddin, a volunteer at Samarbagh Camp for IDPs in Lower Dir District, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, told IRIN on the phone. He said most of these people could only manage "because they received help from their families" and that few arrangements existed for them at camps.

Some attempts have been made to change this. In 2009, the UK-headquartered charity Sightsavers carried out an assessment [see page 41] at Jalozai Camp for IDPs at Nowshera near Peshawar and identified 188 persons with disabilities. Along with its partner, local NGO Human Resource Development Society, Sightsavers was able to initiate a project to improve the social inclusion of the disabled by setting up sanitation facilities that offered them better access.

"In camps, the majority of disabled persons are excluded. Disability needs to be recognized as a cross-cutting issue in the implementation of service provision in the camps, like water and sanitation, inclusive education, literacy, etc," Niaz Ullah Khan, country director of Sightsavers, told IRIN from Islamabad. "All rehabilitation interventions in conflict areas should adopt universal accessibility standards."

Awareness of disabilities

He is advocating campaigns to raise awareness of disabilities among IDPs and for the representation of the disabled on committees.

Lack of awareness of what constitutes a disability and what can be done about it is a problem among IDPs in northern Pakistan who typically rarely see doctors.

"I believed I was nearly blind, but last year some doctors gave me a pair of glasses and now I can see almost perfectly again," said Jamal Muhammad, 70, at the Jalozai Camp, who discovered he was severely short-sighted.

Without access to mobility aids, or even basic health care, life for the disabled in northern Pakistan is not easy even in their own places of origin.

"Many of the IDPs come from far-flung mountain villages where wheelchairs are unavailable or are of no use anywhere on the steep paths and inclines," said Faiz Uddin. He said more needed to be done to address these issues, adding: "As a result of the conflict there may be an increase in the number of the disabled."

An administrative official in Swat who asked not to be named told IRIN by phone: "Some people did suffer injuries of a permanent nature during the fighting, but we have no estimates as to numbers."

For those disabled and in camps, life is tough. "My elderly father is bed-ridden, and in this heat is basically restricted to our tent," said Dilawar Khan, 30, at Jalozai Camp. "Life is hell with just some canvas as protection and he lacks the strength to even chase away the flies which torment him."


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