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An idiot’s guide to… IDP, CFS, #OMG

A couple of weeks ago I did something I’m not proud of. In fact I would go as far as to say that it was something I’ve spent the last few years actively avoiding.

Hash tags, trending and Stephen Fry all meant absolutely nothing to me.  Ignorance truly was bliss.

My days weren’t spent trying to reduce the minefield of randomness that is my brain into 140 characters.

I didn’t go around saying things like #internstrikesagain out loud! And I wasn’t reminded on an hourly basis what someone I have no interest in thinks about something I have no interest in.

However, that’s all changed, for now I am one of the 140 million active users of Twitter.

Sing it loud, sing it proud! My name is Mark and I AM a twitterer… a tweeter?… a twot? (Note to self: find out what the noun for someone who tweets is, maybe I can tweet about it.)

Ignorance is bliss?

There are, however, redeeming features to being constantly plugged into the likes of Piers Morgan’s stream of consciousness. Twitter, whatever disparaging remarks I make about it, is a fantastic way to stay atop breaking news.

One example is the military coup in Mali just over a month ago. Twitter went into overdrive and it was fascinating to read instantaneously what people in Mali were seeing, hearing and ultimately thinking about the situation as it unfolded.

Another reason for championing social media is that it isn’t a slave to demographics, target audiences and general ideas about what is considered newsworthy.

Granted this can mean receiving periodic tweets concerning the health of my ex-girlfriend’s cat but it can also give an insight into what are otherwise largely forgotten or hidden emergencies.

Khyber crisis

Nowhere is this more evident than with the ongoing crisis in Khyber Agency, Pakistan.

Since January, escalating military operations have resulted in over 250,000 people fleeing to Peshawar and the surrounding areas. This number could rise to as much as 600,000 people if military operations continue.

Despite the huge numbers involved, media coverage has been practically nonexistent.

Of those IDPs (internally displaced people), an astonishing 115,000 are children who haven’t registered as IDPs at the only refugee camp in Jalozai, located some 30km from Peshawar.

This means they have no access to the health, shelter and hygiene services run by humanitarian agencies within the camp.

Education in emergencies

As with humanitarian aid, schools established in response to the influx of IDPs are almost solely located within Jalozai and as such are only available to children living in the camp.

As a result, approximately 83,000 unregistered children have been unable to resume their studies.

This number doesn’t even factor in that many registered children are actually living off-camp, or the fact that the conflict shows no signs of abating.

Child-friendly spaces

Returning to school is critical in providing children a sense of normalcy, a safe place to go during the day and access to psychosocial support.

We’re actively targeting children outside the camps in Peshawar, where the highest concentration of IDPs are.

To date, we’ve set up 12 child-friendly spaces (CFS) and 13 temporary learning centres (TLC); reaching over 4,000 children in the area.

These spaces are providing displaced children with both stability and structure during the crisis.

Unfortunately, without greater awareness and advocacy efforts from the international community the plight of thousands of IDPs will continue to go almost entirely unnoticed.

Bringing this blog almost full circle I’d like to share a tweet I came across this morning:

@sskakakhel: “Thousands of families continue to flee #Khyber Agency as more people are killed. Why are we so silent?”

Follow Mark Kaye the Emergency Communications Intern on twitter @mk8287


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