Latest Updates

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Video: Situation Update

Islamic Relief USA VP of Fund Development, Anwar Khan, recently sat down before a camera and described the situation that the displaced are enduring. An excerpt from the video is below:

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Pregnant Women in Desperate Need of Healthcare

Demand for maternal health services has soared amongst the displaced women in northwest Pakistan.

A lack of adequate healthcare, poor diet and the stress of displacement are putting the lives of pregnant women and their babies at risk.

Nayyer Khaled knows the reality of this situation better than anyone. She supervises the team of Lady Health Workers (LHWs) in Char Gulli, where Islamic Relief has established a health team to provide medical care to the displaced people and the local community.

Khaled recently shared her experiences from the field:

"There are many displaced people from Buner and Swat in this village, and amongst them many pregnant women. Their health has been seriously affected by the difficult journeys they have made and the conditions they are now living in.

The other day I met one-month-old Laila who had been born as her mother Reesalat, journeyed through the mountains. Reesalat had given birth without any medical assistance and was traumatized by the conflict she was fleeing from.

After the birth she was in a lot of pain and was bleeding heavily but she did not receive any healthcare. Tragically, 12 days after giving birth she passed away.

Reesalat’s family are convinced that the stress of the shelling and bombing in her village, and the difficult journey lead to her death.

I have also come across many displaced women in this village who have given birth prematurely as a result of the stress they have been through. In this village alone I know of five babies who have been born recently to displaced women. They were all born prematurely and none of them survived.”

Please support Islamic Relief's efforts to help the displaced in desperate need of assistance. Donate today.

Friday, June 19, 2009

World Refugee Day: Pakistan IDPs Face Second Crisis

On World Refugee Day, a second crisis looms over more than 3 million displaced people in Pakistan as a severe shortage of sanitation facilities has led to outbreaks of disease.

Unsanitary living conditions have caused waterborne diseases and skin conditions to spread quickly amongst the displaced populations and local communities. Islamic Relief health teams have noted frequent cases of diarrhea, scabies, and malaria, all of which can be deadly, especially for young children.

Islamic Relief’s assessments of schools and homes where displaced people are sheltering have revealed that around 60 percent have no sanitation facilities or are in urgent need of repair. In almost half of these schools and houses water systems also need to be built or repaired.

One school in Khairabad houses more than 450 displaced people, yet Islamic Relief engineers did not find a single working restroom. At another school in Gul Bahar, displaced families had no source of water.

Islamic Relief aid worker Sultan Mahmood said:

“In the schools and houses I have visited nearly every family has a member suffering from diarrhoea or scabies as a result of poor sanitation facilities and unhygienic living conditions. I have seen up to 20 people sharing one small room, and with so many people living so close to each other these diseases are spreading fast.”

Islamic Relief health teams are concerned that as the monsoon season approaches these problems will get considerably worse. Every year the monsoon floods the region causing rates of malaria and waterborne diseases to soar. This year, with the influx of so many extra people, the impact is likely to be much more severe.

Islamic Relief is constructing restrooms, washing areas, hand pumps, and is carrying out hygiene awareness sessions in schools and households sheltering displaced people in Mardan District. We are also providing free healthcare at local health centers through mobile health teams. These services are helping displaced people and the local community in 26 villages.
Jerome Akram, Islamic Relief’s Worldwide Head of Programs, said:

“...Although most of the displaced people are not living in tents in camps, they are still facing very real difficulties, not least the serious health concerns we are witnessing.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Displaced Children Long for Home

Eight-year-old Aziz fled from his village of Pir Baba in Buner with his parents and siblings almost two months ago. Since then, they have been living in a school in Surkh Dheri, where they are having trouble meeting their daily needs.

Aziz attends Islamic Relief’s Mercy Center in Surkh Dheri where he is provided with food, a safe place to play, education and most importantly, psychosocial counseling.

He told Islamic Relief aid workers that he is very homesick and wishes he could return to his village. Excerpts from what Aziz told them are below:

“I miss my home so much; I miss my village and my friends and the fruit trees by my house. We had peach, pear and orange trees. I miss my home all the time; that is why I feel sad.

I don’t know why we are living in a school and not a house. I did not know people can stay at school because schools are for children to study.

When the fighting started in my village I was so scared. There were helicopters and some buildings near my house were destroyed. I was very afraid and I used to hide behind my bed. But I have got used to these feelings so I do not get as upset anymore.

I have six brothers and seven sisters. My sister Sahar was very scared when we left our house and she screamed and fainted but she is better now. I am glad we are not living in a dangerous area anymore because I feel much happier.

I used to enjoy going to school but we aren’t going anymore. I had a lot of friends at school who I liked to play games with. I have made new friends at this centre and at the school where we live and we have fun together. The people at the centre are very nice and they play games with us and make us feel better, and I like that.

War is not good for my village. I want there to be peace there and I want to go back to my home very soon.”
You can help comfort the children suffering from this conflict by supporting Islamic Relief's mercy centers.

Click here to read more.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Worker Visits School Turned Shelter: People are "Suffering"

Islamic Relief staff member Helen Mould is in northwest Pakistan visiting the displaced persons who have fled the conflict zone. In her diary she writes about her run-ins with “people [who] routinely struggle to access the basic necessities of life.” Mould saw people living in miserable conditions without access to water or sanitation facilities. Her most recent diary entry is below:
Yesterday, I spent some time at the Government Boys High School in Char Gulli where Islamic Relief is installing new bathrooms and hand-pumps. This school is sheltering more than 450 displaced people who have made the various classrooms their homes.

Sheets have been strung between the rooms to try and offer some privacy but inside the classrooms people have nothing. The floors are bare and dirty, the windows broken, and there is no furniture apart from a few blankets. There is not a working restroom in the whole school and nowhere for people to wash.

This school is home to one-month-old Laila who is living here with her sister and two brothers and their uncle’s family. Laila is suffering from scabies and diarrhea as a result of the unsanitary conditions she is living in. She is clearly very ill and I worry about how her family will be able to care for her in such difficult circumstances.

I hope that the clean water and sanitation facilities Islamic Relief is providing will help to prevent further spread of disease amongst other children at the school. But I am also concerned about the many other little girls like Laila who are sick and suffering, but who have no help at all.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Aid Worker on Displaced Men

About 80 percent of the nearly 3 million people displaced by fighting in northwest Pakistan are women and children.

Islamic Relief has concentrated on alleviating the trauma of the children, but the adults are suffering too.

In his most recent diary entry, Islamic Relief aid worker Niyaz Muhammad reports on the psychological state of displaced men, who are a minority among the IDPs but bear the brunt of the hardship.

At the Health Center in the village of Char Gulli I met 30-year-old Abdul Khaliq and his 3-year-old son Yaar Zameen. Abdul told me that Yaar Zameen had diarrhea and was very weak, so he had brought him to this clinic because he knew that Islamic Relief was providing free health care.

He told me sadly that if he had had to pay he would never been able to afford it and his son would have gone without help.

Abdul fled from Swat with his family, including his five children, at the start of June. They have no friends or relatives here so are staying in the house of stranger and 16 members of his family are sharing one small room.

He told me that he feels useless and helpless; he cannot get a job and he cannot provide for his family. Everyday he goes out looking for work and for food, but often comes back empty handed. He said that the looks of expectation on the faces of his children and their disappointment when they see he has nothing, is too much to bear.

“I have huge responsibility taking care of my children and will do anything to make sure they do not suffer. Yet I feel so helpless,” he said.

With no work and no income Abdul, and many other men like him, is feeling depressed and frustrated as he has no way to protect and provide for his family. He cannot even provide food or water and has to hope that other people will be generous enough to give them what they need. And yet he cannot take them home because it is still too dangerous.

The people in this part of the world are strong and men’s identities are tied up with being the protector of the family. Pashtun men will rarely show their emotions and I was shocked that a young man like Abdul was sharing his troubles with me.

Abdul is only one year older than I am and has such an enormous burden on his shoulders, a burden I would struggle to meet. To see him suffering because he has lost his ability to provide for those that need him was heartbreaking and made me realise that conflict and displacement can have profound psychological effects on anyone; man or woman, young or old.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Family Tragedy

Reesalat gave birth to her fifth child as she and her extended family fled from the troubled Swat region in North West Pakistan, but died 12 days later. She was just 28 years old.

Her younger sister Shahnaz explained what happened:

"It was chaos in our village, and I saw many people killed and others who were severely injured as they tried to run away. This experience left us all traumatized but unfortunately this trauma has been surpassed by our own misery.

There was no transportation available in our village so we had to leave on foot. We walked for one day and one night across the mountains. During this time my sister, Reesalat went into labor. We were far away from any health facilities and so we had to take her to a stranger’s house, where she gave birth to a baby girl, Laila. She is so beautiful, just like her mother...

Not long after she had given birth we had to start moving again. She was in a lot of pain and walking in the mountainous terrain was almost impossible for her.

Thankfully, we finally came to a road where we managed to find a truck to bring us all here, to Char Gulli. Initially we were living with a relative but the conditions were not good, so another family member from this area made this house available for us.

Reesalat was living here with Laila and her other four children. She was in a lot of pain and was bleeding heavily but there is no female doctor in this area and all she could do was get a little medicine from the local pharmacy. But this didn’t work and her condition continued to deteriorate; 12 days after giving birth she passed away.

Before the conflict came to our village and we had to flee, Reesalat had no health problems and her pregnancy was going well. We truly believe that the stress and trauma caused by the violence and the difficult journey we had to make after fleeing our village, lead to her death.”

It has been 25 days since Reesalat died and baby Laila and her other four children are now living with their uncle in a makeshift camp at a local school in Char Gulli. They are staying with 12 other family members in a dirty classroom which bare floors, broken windows and no furniture. The only possessions they have are a few blankets and cooking pots, but nothing else.

Conditions in the school are very poor and deteriorating by the day. There is very little access to clean water and many children are suffering from diarrhea, skin infections and respiratory problems.

Laila is underweight and has scabies but is receiving medical care from Islamic Relief’s health team based at the Basic Health Unit (BHU) in Char Gulli. Islamic Relief is installing water and sanitation facilities at the school, to try and prevent the spread of disease amongst the IDPs living there.

Laila’s 13-year-old sister Shah Begum has taken charge of caring for her baby sister since her mother’s death. But she is upset and traumatized by the death of her mother and is struggling to cope.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mercy Centers are Comforting Traumatized Children

Nine-year-old Masoom fled her village with her family three weeks ago. They went to Surkh Dheri and are staying in a local school with other displaced families.

Since then, Masoom has been withdrawn and anxious, traumatized by the conflict and her experiences.

Masoom is one of the children attending Islamic Relief’s Mercy Center.

Here, the children have safe places to play and learn and children such as Masoom are being given psychosocial support by psychologists to help them overcome trauma.

For more information read Islamic Relief's Response in Pakistan.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Children In Desperate Need of Support

There are nearly 3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Pakistan, and field workers estimate that about 80 percent of them are children.

The children especially are very vulnerable and in urgent need of health care, nutritious food and psychosocial care.

Government officials have estimated up to 70 percent of them are traumatized.

Islamic Relief is setting up child-friendly Mercy Centers, where displaced children will receive medical care, food, schooling and psychosocial support from trained psychologists.

Mercy Centers are not only a place for the kids to have fun, but will also help separated children reunite with their families.

Aid workers have witnessed a rejuvenated sense of hope in the children the Mercy Centers are serving.

“At one of the centers, eight-year-old Tufail came running to me clutching one of the books,” Niyaz Muhamad, an Islamic Relief aid worker in Mardan, wrote in his diary.

“[Tufail] was very excited about the opportunity to read and learn again, and kept asking when the lessons would begin. It made me realize how important education is to children and how much it can help with resettling them after a traumatic experience,” he wrote.

Please help comfort displaced children in Pakistan, and donate today.

Aid Worker Diary

Islamic Relief aid worker Niyaz Muhammad (right) is in Mardan District where Islamic Relief Mercy Centers have been set up to serve those who have fled the fighting in Buner, Dir and Swat. In his diary, Muhammad reports on the situation in an area that has witnessed the displacement of nearly 3 million people.

Today, as we ran our first session to support children affected by the conflict, I realized how important our work is. The vast majority of displaced people are children and in the past few weeks their lives have been turned upside down. They have lost all that is familiar to them and are living in extremely difficult conditions with nowhere to play or study and in many cases, nothing to do.

At one of the centers, eight-year-old Tufail came running to me clutching one of the books. He was very excited about the opportunity to read and learn again, and kept asking when the lessons would begin. It made me realize how important education is to children and how much it can help with resettling them after a traumatic experience.

Islamic Relief will be working to ensure children have access to education again as they have not been able to study since they left their homes. Children from the local host communities have also found their education has suffered as their schools have been taken over by displaced families and turned into makeshift camps.

While at the center, I met a woman who has six missing children. 40-year-old Guloon has heard no news from them since she fled her village in Swat where they were staying with her eldest son and his family. Guloon had left them there while she visited relatives in Buner with her youngest daughter and then had no choice but to run to safety when the fighting suddenly started.

Guloon was unable to return to Swat to find her children and made her way to Mardan with her mother and sister-in-law where they found refuge in a local primary school. Since then she has heard no news about her children and fears that they were unable to escape. She was extremely distressed when she spoke to me and kept repeating that she thought her children were dead.

Islamic Relief will be working to reunite people who have been separated from their families and provide psychosocial support to help them cope with the traumatic effects of separation. For Guloon and many others, they may not know what has happened to their relatives until the fighting is over - and for them, this cannot happen soon enough.

June 2, 2009

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Islamic Relief's Response in Pakistan

Islamic Relief USA launched an emergency fundraising appeal, which it raised from $750,000 to $1 million on May 27.

To date, field staff have distributed kitchen sets, household sets and hygiene kits to about 2,000 families (Approx. 12,000 beneficiaries) in the conflict zone.

In coordination with partners, Islamic Relief also distributed hygiene kits, household kits, kitchen sets, clothing and mosquito nets to about 500 families (Approx 3,000 beneficiaries).

Islamic Relief is also constructing ‘mercy centers' around the conflict zone. These centers will provide food, shelter, basic medical care, psychosocial counseling and other vital services.

They are expected to begin opening their doors by the end of May.

Islamic Relief hopes to provide three months of emergency support to 70,000 beneficiaries in the Mardan and Swabi districts.

Assistance will include the provision of emergency aid such as blankets, clothing and cooking sets, supplies of clean water, and psychosocial support for traumatized children.

Please donate today to help provide comfort for children forced to flee from violence

Facts on Pakistan:
• Over 73% of the population lives below $2 a day
• 24% of the population is undernourished
• 38% of children are underweight

Displaced and Stranded

More than two million people have fled their homes and settled in host communities or emergency camps.

Many prefer the host communities over the camps because of cultural traditions. Unfortunately, this means thousands of people are staying with complete strangers and are not registered to receive aid from the camps.

Most were forced to leave carrying little more than the clothes on their backs. Large groups of IDPs had to settle outside the camps due to overcrowded facilities and lack of supplies.

Thousands upon thousands of the children don't have schools to attend, while most of the IDPs are facing widespread shortages of food, clean water and sanitation facilities.

The camps cannot accommodate the influx of people and many are settling outside in the heat.

Aid workers on the ground report that around 80 percent of those who have been displaced are women and children.

Pakistani government officials report that 60 to 70 percent of the children are suffering from psychological trauma and are at risk of serious health problems.

Click here to read an Islamic Relief aid worker's eyewitness accounts in Pakistan's IDP camps.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Islamic Relief USA in Pakistan

Islamic Relief has been working in Pakistan since 1992 and previously worked in the Jelozai camp in North West Frontier Province until April 2009.

Work in the camp included providing campsite development, water and sanitation facilities, and basic health and hygiene care.

Islamic Relief also provided essential emergency aid after the 2005 earthquake, raising over $70 million worth of aid worldwide, $20 million of which came from US donors.

In addition, Islamic Relief provided over $1 million of aid which benefited over 90,000 victims of the June 2007 cyclone in Baluchistan.