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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

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


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