about the author
Public Information Officer in Pakistan
Former journalist for BBC, Dumeetha Luthra joined WFP in 2009 and is PI Officer in Pakistan.
As WFP delivers food assistance to more than 2 million people affected by conflict in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province, some families are getting the opportunity to cook their own food in new kitchens that have been set up in places like Yar Hussein camp in Swabi.
Life has changed for Shahi Mana since a makeshift kitchen was built in the tented camp that has become home for her, her husband and her 7 children. The kitchens are modest – just a brick stove that leaves space for a wood fire built on a mud base. But for Shahi and her family, this is a small but significant improvement to the living conditions she has to endure at Yar Hussein tent camp in Swabi
“I’m very happy with the food, with the WFP rations, and now I can cook clean food for my family,” Shahi says, smiling as she looks around at her family in the shade of the tent. “Now I’ll make our food with my own hands, and we don’t have to wait in lines. Even if I only make a meal once a day at least we can eat peacefully and plentifully.”
Before the makeshift kitchens were introduced to the camps, gathering food for her family was a daily ordeal for Shahi. Although they were receiving a WFP ration of wheat, pulses, oil, sugar, tea and salt, they had no place to cook them other than by building small fires outside their tents.
Instead they had to queue three times a day for the cooked rations provided by the government, lining up with six thousand other families - more than thirty thousand people – in forty degree food to get a hot meal. Some people fainted as they waited.
“We had to wait in the queue for two to three hours.” Shahi explains. “Sometimes I would send my children to bed hungry”
The camp management and local authorities have implemented the plan to bring better cooking amenities to Yar Hussein camp. Their aim is to construct one kitchen for every two tents, as well as some larger communal cooking areas.
For Shahi and her family it is still a far cry from life in her home village in Buner. But it is a small improvement that makes life slightly easier for her and the many others who have been affected by the upsurge in violence in this region. All of them are hopeful that their time in the tented camps will be temporary.
“We’ll go back when the situation improves,” She says. “When everyone else goes, we’ll go.”