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Displacement an opportunity for change in lifestyle

May 13, 2012


A woman sits with her children in an IDP camp. – AP (File Photo)

PESHAWAR, May 12: Displacement has provided the troubled people of conflict-hit tribal areas, especially marginalised groups, with a window of opportunity to change their lifestyle.

A woman from Arjali Nadi area of Bara tehsil in Khyber Agency, who had mothered four children through home-based deliveries, underwent a medically-assisted birth procedure in a labour room set up by a UN-run organisation in a small canopy at the sprawling Jalozai camp.

In line with local traditions, husband stayed away at the crucial moment of his wife’s life shifting the responsibility of her care to other members of the family. The woman’s younger brother, Mohammad Haroon, waited in another tent to help her in case of emergency.

This and other events taking place in the IDP camp are reshaping the lives of thousands of people displaced from their homes.

Relief workers assisting the displaced people in the camp said initially, men in families had reservations and were reluctant to let female members of their families visit healthcare centres. It, according to them, is considered a taboo in the male-dominated tribal culture to allow women to step out without male members of the family.

Nongovernmental organisations, which are providing health services to IDPs, have recruited male and female mobilisers to educate people about health-related problems and encourage them to send women for medical checkup.

Three mother and child health (MCH) centres have been set up to cater to the needs of vulnerable groups in the camp.

Dr Alia, who offers clinical counseling to female patients at MCH centres, said initially, men turned out to be very conservative and didn’t let women of their families to visit health centres for consultation or treatment.

“However, awareness (consultation and treatment) is increasing among IDPs and even women are visiting MCH centres without men. This is a very positive sign,” she said. She said 21 deliveries had taken place, while 605 pregnant women visited one centre for antenatal care.

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) stated in a weekly report that 166 new antenatal cases, 290 ante-natal consultations, 110 post-natal and 18 deliveries were reported between April 18 and April 24.

Dr Junaid Ahsan working with Centre for the Excellence of Rural Development (CERD) said teams of male and female social mobilisers visited tents to identify expectant women in the camp. Birth rate among the IDPs is high. Data compiled by the CERD shows 1327 children have born between January 2010 and June 2011.

Average two to three children are born daily among the IDPs. During this period 2865 pregnant women got treatment in the camp.

“Many males are very reserved and discourage female members of their families to visit MCH centre,” he said, “our staff prevailed upon a man from Bajaur Agency that getting examined women by doctors saved them from complications. After a struggle of six months, he realised the significance of medical checkup and sent wife to health centre."

He said majority of the females in the camp were now health conscious and come to MCH centre for prenatal and postnatal checkups.

Another positive development in the camp life is that refusal cases by parents against oral polio vaccines had dwindled.

Displacement had become a blessing in disguise for children who had not been immunised since October 2009 as they lived in inaccessible areas.

According to a recent weekly update released by OCHA, 31,159 children and children had been administered vaccines since January this year.

A health worker said children, who had not been administered anti-polio drops for the last five years, had been identified in the camp. He said refusal cases had decreased due to displacement and parents brought their children for vaccination at the centres.

Despite presence of big corps of the relief agencies and NGOs and huge spending, there is shortage of basic needs and emergency service in the camp which houses around 30,000 IDPs. The UN body said since January 2012, donors had contributed more than $113 million for humanitarian response to the complex emergency in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata.

Inhabitants are complaining about health facilities, doctors and teachers in the makeshift schools. Large portion of the camp in spite of directives of the Peshawar High Court is still without electricity and IDPs especially children have to bear scorching heat.

Health workers said the camp had no facility for high-risk delivery cases and patients were referred to Peshawar. “The directorate of health, Fata, has huge fleet of well equipped mobile health units in Peshawar, but not a single facility has been dispatched to the camp,” he said.

An OCHA report said 24 schools were operational in Jalozai camp where total 8,884 students including 3,949 girls were enrolled. The UN agencies and its partners claimed to have appointed 146 teachers in these schools.

IDPs complained that teachers were either usually absent or did not teach properly with an elder alleging that figures about enrolment existed only on paper and that absence of teachers had stopped parents from sending children to schools.