Pakistan – Razia and her children
Razia was trying to help her four children come to terms with the sudden death of their father six months ago when violence ripped through her city. She was living in Mingora, the largest city in Pakistan’s Swat Valley when the North-West Frontier Province conflict spread. After her neighbours were killed, she collected what little money she had, gathered up her children and fled across the mountains. Desperate to get to safety, she spent half her savings hiring a van to travel to Swabi, about 35 miles away.
Razia and her children are now living in a local family’s house, along with 40 other people also displaced by the conflict. Most of them are children under the age of 10. Conditions are cramped and unhygienic. All the children have either diarrhea or chest infections. I can’t even begin to imagine what Razia’s family – and so many others like them – are going through.
I arrived in Pakistan last week. In the last month, the number of people displaced by the conflict has increased by tens of thousands and the total is now well over 1.5 million – 60% of them children. Traumatized by seeing their relatives and neighbours killed and shocked by the intense shelling, they have been forced to run for their lives. Now, they are miles from home and living with strangers.
The task ahead of us is enormous – but our team of dedicated local staff has already distributed vital aid to thousands of families who left their homes with nothing. Our doctors have travelled remote villages to give people urgent medical attention. We are seeing here is no different to what happened when the Kashmir earthquake hit Pakistan in 2005. Children are the most vulnerable and it is unlikely that displaced families will be able to return home for many months.
In the weeks and months to come we will continue to support families so that they can rebuild their lives, farm again and send their children to school. We will be here for as long as it takes.
“The Pakistani people are strong,” a colleague who has 50 displaced relatives living in her home told me. “We will get through this.”