“I was studying in fourth class in Mirali, North Waziristan, and my teachers called me the most confident child of my class. I miss my school and the schools in Bannu are not giving me admission because I do not have a school-leaving certificate with me. I want to study, make friends in school and play in the ground as I have nothing else to do here,” says nine-year-old Mamoona from Mirali, North Waziristan. Her elder sister Zaibunnisa studied till class eight but had no opportunity to study further as schooling for girls was only available till eighth grade in Mirali.
Many internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had no place to stay found space in the schools of Bannu as schools were available due to summer vacations. Those schools have been vacated of the IDPs now and they are looking for shelter while new admissions are only for Bannu residents since no child displaced from North Waziristan carries a school-leaving certificate. There is no alternative solution for those children. There are more than 300,000 children displaced from North Waziristan as per the FATA Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) report. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s government has, so far, not even given a statement about the loss of education of these children. Moreover, polio drops have been given to around 20,000 children but the other routine immunisation is not being given a priority, which is a matter of concern.
As I visited the IDP camp set up by the Pakistan People’s Youth Organisation (PYO) working specifically for women, I got the chance to find out about the unlimited problems women are still bearing, especially those without an adult male in their family. In the beginning, they were getting monthly rations but after the announcement made by the Maliks disallowing women to collect food items, they have not been receiving any aid. “My husband passed away two years back in North Waziristan and I had to take care of five of my children while coming to Bannu by foot. I did not carry an identity card as no one had told me how important it was and now I do not know how to make one. I am begging for rations since I am not registered as an IDP,” said 26-year-old Pari.
In more than three months, those responsible for sorting out the issues of the IDPs have not been able to simplify the procedure for women to have identity cards and neither have they been able to provide separate ration receiving points for women. The most ignored out of the ignored are the Hindu and Christian minorities who have been living in North Waziristan since forever. “My 22-year-old healthy son lost his life during our journey from Mirali to Bannu due to heat stroke. I buried him with my own bare hands in Bannu. I have 11 children and my old man is unable to walk while they do not allow me to get food supplies for my husband and children myself. No one allows us food because we are women,” says Amrita
Women IDPs have given birth with the help of fellow women within their camps. There are no midwives, lady health workers or trained staff to help women with such issues. They have special health needs and hospitals are charging them Rs 7,000 for just one check up as said by a woman who recently had a baby and has been vomiting blood almost every day after giving birth. Those people who have been officially registered as IDPs are getting food supplies from the army but their children have no place to even play, let alone go to a school and study. Their wives’ health needs are not being prioritised and someone has to take the responsibility. The weather is still hot enough to make people suffer from heat stroke and they live in thin tents without the facility of fans. Solar panels are manufactured in Bannu at quite an affordable price that they can use even after going back to North Waziristan but private individuals cannot afford to help more than 700,000 IDPs. It is the state’s responsibility.
It is unfair that the government has failed to provide the IDPs with a little comfort and will not even give a no objection certificate (NOC) to the nongovernmental organisations that want to be of assistance. It is still not too late to make this appeal to the responsible stakeholders to kindly have an alternative arrangement for children to study, issue NOCs to NGOs, start routine immunisation of children, make the process of getting ID cards easier for women, provide separate points for women to receive rations, have skilled health workers for mothers and children and invest in women’s and girls’ protection. The recent apolitical appeal by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari must be given importance and IDPs should be given top priority as they have been displaced for the whole of Pakistan’s protection.