about the author
Public Information Officer in Pakistan
Former journalist for BBC, Dumeetha Luthra joined WFP in 2009 and is PI Officer in Pakistan.
Akhtar Zaman and his 25-member extended family fled fighting in the Swat district six weeks ago. They are now staying with relatives in Mardan and being supported by WFP. Their story is the story of hundreds of thousands of families in northern Pakistan at the moment.
MARDAN -- Akhtar and his family didn’t have time to pack before leaving their home in the beautiful Swat valley. The women had to sell their jewellery just to pay for the car out of Swat.
“We came with nothing but the shoes on our feet, we didn’t bring anything with us,” he says as he clutches his ration card at a WFP distribution centre in Mardan. He’s collecting his WFP provisions for June.
Now he, his wife and two kids, his 2 brothers and their families, his two sisters and their families, his mother and father, are staying with their cousins at their home in Mardan.
Better than a tent
His cousins live in three mud rooms built in a U shape. The courtyard in the middle of the U has been given over to Akhtar’s family. With 25 newcomers and 23 people already living there, that’s 58 people in total.
It’s not much of a new home for Akhtar, but it’s all his cousins can give him, and it’s free. He says he’d rather stay here than in a tent and for the moment his cousins’ family is willing to house them.
- WFP distributed monthly food rations to nearly 3 million IDPs in camps and host communities during May.
- WFP has capacity to provide food rations to 150,000 people per day.
- 35 Humanitarian Hubs are in action serving host communities and 10 food distribution points in camps.
- The UN has appealed for US$162 million to meet basic food needs of IDPs.
- According to registration authorities, there are more than two million IDPs in northern Pakistan.
“We will combine all our families together happily. I always welcome them,” says cousin Chamin Khan. They’re all sharing WFP rations - wheat, pulses, oil, salt, sugar, tea, biscuits - and the food the family buys from local markets.
This has been the model of choice in Pakistan’s exodus from Swat. Families that have fled the fighting are being housed in communities. WFP has helped the government set up ‘humanitarian hubs’ - centres close to the communities where people can come and register and collect food.
This system sometimes create a little tension relationship between IDPs and their hosts. The displaced people and many others are relying on the kindness of family and friends.
Chamin Khan is warm and open in his role as a host, but he admits that it’s a challenge to house Akhtar and his family. “I’m not sure for how long I can afford to house these people, but I will try my best,” he says. WFP food rations will certainly make it easier.