Much has been lost in the shape of lives, property and material well-being due to the worst floods in history. It is however, pure folly to consider each one of the IDPs as people who were always downtrodden and impoverished. Some of them were just as full of stomach and pocket as you and me before the floods inundated their towns and villages. They had normal lives; their children studied in schools; they celebrated Eid and other occasions and, they were all earning a steady income each month.
Anywhere you go in Sindh be it Thatta, Sukkur, Shikarpur, Sehwan or Jacobabad, you will find schools that have been turned into shelters for the IDPs. Obviously these schools and other institutes are not being used to teach children, but are providing shelter to the hundreds and thousands of homeless. What about the children who have been affected? What of their education? My own two kids get restless even if they are off for a few days for Eid. What are those thousands of children feeling, now that their studies have been completely disrupted?
For over a month now, every aid organisation and NGO has focused on three things: shelter, food and medicine. Obviously those were the three most urgent needs of the hour but I think now, it is time that everyone shifts their focus from short-term to long-term rehabilitation. As it is, we have hit donor fatigue in this crises but once the media coverage decreases significantly, there will also be volunteer fatigue. With Ramazan being over and many people in the cities getting back into their routine, it will soon become very hard to find volunteers to go week after week to help the IDPs. Thus, a long term strategy has to be devised to empower the IDPs to be able to help themselves. But first and foremost of this rehabilitation process should be the rebuilding of schools for the displaced children.
As schools all over Pakistan continue to serve the role of shelters for at least three more months, there will be an urgent need to build new schools. Anyone who has been out in the field can tell you that the only way to appease the misery of the IDPS to an extent, is to provide their kids with a sustainable future.
For this purpose, we have to think beyond just giving cash. Schools must be established but at the same time, in order to ensure that the kids attend classes on a regular basis, some kind of token fees should be allotted to the parents (only if their child is in school), as an incentive. Since these parents (and other IDPs) will also need more cash to re-extablish their business or get back to farming, micro-financing should be introduced. Even providing them with soft loans might be a solution.
The media is always reinforcing the argument that the citizens, the government and the armed forces are three separate entities, each running for its own interest in this rat race. This is pure fallacy as all three entities make up Pakistan. All three have been working tirelessly to help the IDPs in some capacity or the other. To borrow from Obama, "We should not differentiate between them and us, it’s just us."
*Photo by Taimur Mirza