One Year On: The IRC Helps the Pakistani People Rebuild
To help people who are returning to devastated villages, the IRC distributes essential items like quilts, mattresses and kitchen sets. Photo: The IRC.
- Hundreds of thousands of civilians who were displaced by fighting between the Pakistani army and the Taliban last year in northwestern Pakistan have returned to ruined homes.
- The IRC is helping communities in the region rebuild and repair their water supplies. We are also distributing essential items like quilts, mattresses and kitchen sets to returning families.
- TO HELP: Buy a life-changing gift at the IRC store
Nearly a year after a Pakistani army offensive drove the Taliban from Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) people are struggling to rebuild their lives. Hundreds of thousands of civilians who were displaced by last year’s intense fighting have returned to the region only to find their homes, water systems and roads in ruins.
In Pari Kass, a remote village in Pakistan’s Lower Dir district, residents were forced to flee when the Taliban arrived in the area in April 2009. Eleven civilians were killed and scores of homes destroyed during fighting between Pakistani troops and the militants. Along with most of the population in the NWFP’s Lower Dir, Swat and Buner districts, the people of Pari Kass escaped by foot over treacherous mountain terrain, carrying their few belongings on their backs. Those who stayed behind were forced into hiding, with little access to food, health care or other services.
After months spent living in tents or with relatives or strangers in the hot Peshawar Valley, the residents of Pari Kass were able to return to their village in August 2009. They were met by a depressing sight: looted and destroyed houses, stolen livestock, ruined fields, orchards and crops. The United Nations and the Red Cross provided the returning population with food rations, but the people of Pari Kass desperately needed help to rebuild their shattered community.
The IRC soon stepped in. As part of a program that helps communities in the North-West Frontier Province rebuild, the IRC distributed essential items like quilts, mattresses and kitchen sets. IRC also worked with communities to repair broken drains and water pipes so that houses could receive drinking water again. The community’s future plans include a new irrigation system and a school for girls.
Among other things, the IRC’s “Home Together” reconstruction program helps people repair broken drains and water pipes. (Photo: The IRC)
Under the reconstruction program, called Kalay Yozai or “Home Together” in Pashtu, 248 villages will receive an IRC grant of US$16,100 to realize two or three emergency relief projects. The villagers themselves will nominate and elect members of local committees which will then decide on the reconstruction projects.
“Everyone in the village came to our meetings,” said Waseem who has been elected to the committee in Pari Kass. “We made sure every perspective in our community was represented in our discussions. Even the women, who formed a separate committee, discussed their priorities and informed us that they needed winter quilts. Until the IRC came here no one had ever asked what we needed before – not during the time we were displaced and not since we returned.”
The IRC’s Pakistan director Tammy Hasselfelt said that the project is vital to help people begin to put their lives back together.
“In some areas, fighting forced the entire population to leave and the destruction in these villages is extensive,” she said. “Through this project we are able to give each community a step up in the rebuilding process.”
While most of the three million people who fled last year’s offensive have now returned to their villages, the Pakistani military’s battle against the Taliban continues in other parts of the country. As a result, an estimated one million people have been displaced in the tribal belt near the border with Afghanistan. The army’s latest military offensive and ongoing extremist violence recently displaced at least 210,000 people from the tribal areas of Orakzai and Kurram.
While some people in Pari Kass fear that the Taliban might one day return, most villagers are optimistic about the future.
“Many things remain to be done, but we are hopeful,” said Fazal, a member of the Pari Kass women’s committee. “We hope that the IRC will be with us and help us to address these challenges in the future.”