The Invisible Refugees?

The army offensive continues in Swat and has now extended to Waziristan. This will cause a much greater influx of internally displaced people. As the panic stricken victims of war flee the war zone, there is indeed much more suffering at hand. The IDP camps in various areas of the country depict a picture of extreme helplessness. With loads of International aid pooling in ,there are still fears of an extreme lack of long term strategy.

An NYT media library holding pictures of various IDP camps across Pakistan is named ‘Pakistan’s Invisble Refugees‘ :

Pakistan is experiencing its worst refugee crisis since partition from India in 1947, and while the world may be familiar with the tent camps the have rolled out like carpets since its operation against the Taliban started in April, more than 80 percent of the nearly three million people who have fled live unseen in houses and schools.

A year ago a Taliban rocket struck the home of Shahida Bibi, catching it on fire and severely burning her as well as killing three of her relatives. She is now a refugee from the more recent fighting in the Swat Valley, living in a house in Rawalpindi.

Will we turn a blind eye to Shahida Bibi? and millions of other victims who need our immediate help. Are these people really the ‘invisible’?. They have witnessed the atrocities of the Taliban, who slaughtered their brothers,raped their girls and burned their houses. Will we show them a different side of the nation? or shrug our shoulders in ignorance?.

The Islamic Relief USA brings forth the story of 8-year old Aziz:

Eight-year-old Aziz fled from his village of Pir Baba in Buner with his parents and siblings almost two months ago. Since then, they have been living in a school in Surkh Dheri, where they are having trouble meeting their daily needs.
Aziz attends Islamic Relief’s Mercy Center in Surkh Dheri where he is provided with food, a safe place to play, education and most importantly, psychosocial counseling.

He told Islamic Relief aid workers that he is very homesick and wishes he could return to his village. Excerpts from what Aziz told them are below:

“I miss my home so much; I miss my village and my friends and the fruit trees by my house. We had peach, pear and orange trees. I miss my home all the time; that is why I feel sad. read more here

Now that the military offensive is extending to Waziristan many more will be effected.We have an exodus at our hands that needs to be tackled.  These are people who have nothing to do or want with politics or war. They need peace and shelter and most importantly to be rehabilitated back to their homes. We must act now to stop this crisis from worsening.

According to UNHCR :

An estimated 235,000 people are staying in 21 organized camps in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), according to local authorities. This includes more than 148,000 people who fled their homes over the past five weeks. In addition, some 100,000 people are staying in camp-like situations in schools and other government buildings. With the lifting of the curfew on Tuesday in Chakdara, in Malakand, more people are expected to arrive in safe areas.

These aren’t invisible refugees, they are our people. However actions speak louder than words and its time now that we ACT. Extend a helping hand for your fellow country men and make a difference in their lives NOW!



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