On her recent visit to Pakistan, WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin travelled to the Swat Valley, where breath-taking mountain views belie the humanitarian toll of natural disasters and conflict in neighbouring Afghanistan. In her latest blog from the field, Cousin describes how families are learning to protect themselves from hunger as they rebuild their lives.
KALAM (Pakistan)--Today was one of those spectacular days you never forget. Few places on earth are as breath-taking as Pakistan’s Swat Valley, with its snow-crested mountains towering from green valley floors terraced with pine trees.
But few places have been through so much in recent years. First, the enormous displacement of 2009, during which about 2.5 million people saw their lives uprooted as they fled from their homes in the final days of Taliban occupation. In 2010 came the most catastrophic monsoon floods in recent memory, washing away the livelihoods of up to 20 million people and killing approximately 2,000.
The resilience of the Valley’s people is nothing less than admirable. You can feel their quiet sense of satisfaction as life slowly begins to return to some kind of normality. One very encouraging sign as we arrived in Kalam was to see large crowds gathered for the annual festival, which featured an eclectic mix of sports, artists, a photo exhibit and local handicrafts. Pakistani tourists are visiting again, making the trip up to Kalam, providing a vital and timely boost to the local economy as well as the community’s morale.
After a short, steep drive through narrow mountainous roads, we reached a project through which WFP, via a cash-for-work project building a flood protection wall, is helping a poor community protect itself from the impact of future disasters. Where lives were once washed away, now there is a sense of permanence and a hope that things can be different. It is a true demonstration of the potential for a vulnerable community to build its own resilience.
We then travelled to Baidara where WFP together with other partners supports a nutrition centre as part of the joint WFP and UNICEF Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) project.
I am always so moved to meet mothers, some of them so young, who have so little, but like mothers everywhere they are prepared to sacrifice everything for the health of their babies. We must not forget or underestimate their daily struggles and perseverance.
The women I met at this centre have all been through so much. At least here they are able to see their children assessed and cared for in a wonderfully professional manner. WFP provides its locally manufactured Acha Mum – a specialised nutritious food – to those children suffering from moderate acute malnutrition, while there are also food rations for the mothers (oil and fortified blended foods) and siblings (fortified biscuits). These foods are saving lives and preserving human potential.
Alongside security and economic development, access to a nutritious diet for all is at the core of a healthy nation. Together with the government, and our partners, we have the know-how, capacity and knowledge to make a lasting impact for the benefit of Pakistan’s children, and the generations to come.