By Jos de Voogd, Caritas Communications Officer in Pakistan
As part of the Caritas Internationalis response to the crisis in Pakistan, Caritas Ireland (Trocaire) started distributions of food and non-food items to displaced families 6 June.
Because of the unexpected influx of 65.000 displaced people into new districts such as Mansehra and Haripur, Trocaire decided to give these areas extra attention. So far, Trocaire is the only international NGO working here in Hazara Division.
Sheirin (70) is from the village of Malamjabar in Swat district. The area is known as the Switzerland of Pakistan, attracting thousands of tourists who used to come here for skiing and mountain walking. Those days are over and no one knows for how long.
“One of my nephews was killed when the bombing began”, Sheirin says. Together with three other related families, he, his wife and their 8 children had to run for their lives. It took them 3 weeks to walk to the district of Buner, since no vehicles where available.
From there he had to pay 16.000 Rupees (150 Euro’s) for transport to Swabi. The family found shelter in a tent in one of the larger camps. But he couldn’t cope there, he felt threatened.
‘People called me a Punjabi and I feared my daughters would be abducted’, he said. So they left again and went to Haripur, which is in Hazara area. Here he feels safe, but is still totally dependent on the help and good will of others.
Despite his age of 70, he still is a young father. His last three kids, all boys, age 12, 7 and 5 years old. At home he was still farming and had 2 buffalo’s and 12 goats, all dead now.
We met Sheirin at the distribution point where Trocaire, together with its local partner RDP (Rural Development Program), is conducting the distributions of food and non-food items.
Coordinator Rizwan of RDP explains that in a matter of a few weeks 65.000 displaced people had entered Hazara’s area. They are both newly displaced people fleeing ongoing violence as well as displaced persons from the overcrowded districts of Swabi and Mardan.
Rizwan said that although data given by the district authorities show there are about 3000 IDP families in Haripur district, Trocaire for this area only has sufficient funding to distribute to 1000 families.
Rizwam said “This is a very rural and poor area. The packages we distribute also need to give relief to the host families. That’s why we carefully selected the most vulnerable and poorest families.”
A small truck takes Sheirin and his package of relief items home.
The last part we walk and suddenly we enter a small ravine. At the bottom of the ravine is his shelter. At first it appears to be a place where livestock are fed and rested.
We meet with his three sons. Sher, age 12, doesn’t like the place at all. There is no school and our own village is much more beautiful and cool, he says, before running off again. And the old man sits silently, watching with eyes full of disbelief at the situation he is in.