WFP is rushing to distribute food rations to all registered families who have fled fighting in Pakistan’s North Waziristan Agency under tough conditions.
The relief effort is proceeding at a steady pace at Bannu sports complex, where thousands of families gather to pick up aid. Mounds of relief goods are piled up in the stadium and more trucks are coming in al the time. Long queues are getting shorter, and people are calmer now that they see that there is enough for everyone.
So far more 457,000 people have registered as displaced with the FATA Disaster Management Authority (FDMA). In addition to food and basic items like blankets and tents, people also receive a cash grant when they register.
A camp for 200,000 people has been established in Bakka Khel, 7 kilometers from Saidgai check post where families register, but most people opt to stay elsewhere in Bannu district, DI Khan, Tang, Lakki Marwat and Karak. Some stay with relatives, others rent houses or buildings, and some stay in the schools which are closed for summer vacation. The communities here have hosted people fleeing from violence before: in the summer of 2009, many opened up their houses and ‘hujras’ – a kind of special drawing room area for guests – for people coming from Swat, and the displaced from North Waziristan are getting similar treatment.
64-years-old Sherabat Khan came with his family to Bannu from Miran Shah, the main town of North Waziristan Agency. He didn’t want to stay in the camp and preferred to find a house in Bannu town. Although he has no relatives there, he found a house that a family let him have free of charge. Sherbat Khan also received cash and cooked meals as soon as he registered and within two days he received a two-week ration from WFP.
"I came out of my town with very little belongings as the forces asked us to leave immediately. I have a family of 30 members including my children, grand-children and my wives. We faced a lot of problems on our way out from Miran Shah. We have left our animals and our houses in haste. All I could do was to hire two vans to get my family out of the danger zone. Fortunately no one from my family died or got hurt in the operation and we managed to flee from Miran Shah.”
WFP stepped up its efforts to provide the displaced with rations including wheat flour, high-energy biscuits, vegetable oil, pulses and salt. With the opening of six distributions points in Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Tang and DI Khan, WFP plans to reach all registered families with a two-week food ration in the first phase and continue if necessary. More than 11,000 families have so far received food from WFP.
Repeatedly wiping his face, sweating as if he was under the showers, his face full of worries, this is Otay Khan. He is standing in a queue at one of the recently-established distribution points where WFP and its NGO partner are providing food to internally displaced people from North Waziristan Agency.
Moving away from their area was not an easy endeavor for Otay Khan and his 15 family members. But due to the fighting between the Pakistani security forces with non-state actors, residents of Razmak in North Waziristan were asked to move out to safer areas and Otay was not an exception.
“We came on foot for many miles before we reached Saidgai check point. I have very little means of earning and could not afford to rent a van for transportation. Also the transporters were over-charging and I can’t afford it with a big family, so we walked for almost entire day.”
Razmak is one of the three sub-divisions of North Waziristan Agency. At 6,666 feet above sea level, it has a cool climate with pleasant summers and snow-clad winters.
“It’s hot as hell here. I hail from an area where weather is extremely pleasant these days. My children and family can’t bear this scorching heat and on top of that these long hours of power cuts. They are not use to such conditions,” Otay complains as he moves to the verification table where displaced people are registered in WFP’s online database.
The desk staff take his national identity card and enter it into the system; soon his name appears on the screen and after the necessary process, his token is stamped and Otay is cleared to receive his food package from WFP, which should cover him and his family for nearly two weeks.
But Otay worries about his future and the uncertainty of how long he will have to be displaced and out of his house: “We want to go back as soon as possible, no one in my family wants to stay here for long. We can live on the bare minimum but we want to go back. We don’t like to live in the tents; there is no privacy. But it is also not possible for me to continue to pay for the rent of the house for long.”