Plights of Displaced People – Where is response of State and International Community?

Posted: October 4, 2011 in News and Views

For two years in a row, Pakistan has been hit by heavy rains and severe flooding. According to one figure, total estimated number of people affected last year was over 29 million and total number of houses damaged were over 3.2 million. This year severe rain and heavy floods have completly destroyed, Sindh, southersn province of Pakistan where millions of people have been displaced due to heavy rain and floods. The Government and other actors responsible for disaster management have failed to respond this bad emergency. Poor flood management system, corruption, and reactionery approach have left million shelterless and starved. It’s reaction was also shallow and ineffective. Learning from previous years flood destruction and the climatic and topographic factors, Government did not put any early warning system in place. Finally, rescue and relief efforts by the government are also not meeting the extent of the calamity and need of the people affected by the disasters. UN and international community’s intervention was also very delayed due to lack of invitation by the Government and lack of preparation by international community.

For people in Sindh, not many options  are left to save their lives. In cities violence and terrorism while in country side disaster, corruption and poor managment has made their lives’ miserable.  

Not to talk about response, the Government and its institutions have even failed to know the real extent of the destruction in the province and the real situation of affected people. One of its failure is to collect & know the accurate data of the damage and destruction. It was revealed in the district Mirpurkhas where Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) declared the wrong number of affected and dispalced people. Accoridng to PDMA’s figures, total number of people dispalced in Mirpurkhas is 199,831 and number of houses damaged fully/partially are 25,514. Local Civil Society has challenged PDMA’s figures and severely criticized PDMA’s performance. According to local civil society, the number given by PDMA is wrong because satelitte data survey confirms 90.8 per cent destruction of the district. It shocks people beyond measure, who now does not trust Provincial Disaster Management Authorities and criticize PDMA’s lukewarm response to the plight of people, not only in Mirpurkhas but in the whole province.

Besides, following pictures will show the plight of dispalced people and hurldes in the way of people to access to the resources.

Shelter less yet thankful to God.

This old man and his family might have heard about tents but, unfortunately, he is not among the luckiest who got any. He has his own old cot, the family cot, which always stand by with him and shelters his family. The main hurldes in the way of people to access to relief aid include corruption, favoritism, discrimination and lack of commitment and sincerity of the Government institutions established to respond disaster and emergencies. Absence of any civil society mechanims works as a watch dog on corruption, favoritism, prevent discrimination and ensure fair and just distribution of relief aid in the affected areas is another issue that all these things are happening without any check and accountability.

Feudalism is also one of the barriers in the acces of dispalced people to resources. In Mirpurkhas, one old man received a tent from the district government but later it was reported that the tent was taken by local feudal who used it to cover tractor from the rain.

Hearing about Tents but have not seen them! pic by A-B Arisar

 IDP Guidelines Principle 18 (2) b-……………Competent authorities shall provide internally dispalced persons with and esnure access to: Basic shelter and housing;

If causes are identified then why actions are not being taken?

The causes of diseases in the IDP camps identified by doctors include stagnant water which serving as breeding ground for mosquitos, flies and other insects. Besides, lack of supply of safe and clean water, lack of sanitation and hygeine facilities,  inadequate health facilities, shortage of medicines and imbalanced food are causing diseases among camp dwellers. In this situation, government and other actors responsible have failed to adopt multi-pronged strategy which may include both preventive and curative measures. Forgetting that preventive side is easier and less expensive than curative measure and timely preventive measures can save not only resources but health and lives of the displaced people. Poor sanitation and hygience facilities are the main causes of diseases in the camps. Why these facilities are not provided them is not a secret anymore. “Unless corrupt district administration is hold accountable, relief will not reach us” an angry old man said.

Question is whose responsbility is to provide protection and humanitarian assistance to internally dispalced persons? Of course, it is the primary responsbility of the State under national and international law. Principle # 3 of the IDP Guidelines also put that responsbility on the shoulders of the State which can not exonerate itself from it.

Poor skin of poor child is susceptible to diseases

Poor Sanitation and Hygiene Facilities

“For God sake, please supply safe, clean water and improved living conditions to poor idps, who are not only displaced and shelterless but sad, frightened and truamtized” said by a teacher helps IDPs in the camp.  Water consumed in camps is contaminated with microorgaism, reported by media, causing cholera, diarrhoea and other diseases in the camps. “Water they are supplying to IDPs is dirty and cause of skin diseases” shared by a health worker. “Wish these rulers and NGO people could see the condition of our innocent children. One day same will happen to their children as well.” A dispalced woman from Jhandu Mari district Tando Allahyar shares her grief and anger.

“We are hearing in news that huge money is coming in aid but people are still on the roads, without shelter, food and medicine. Where this money is going?” A CBO leader asked us.

Evidence of Sanitation and Hygience Facilities in IDP Camp

“I can not stop tears when I visit IDP camps. Facilitities provided to IDPs are less than what NGOs have shown in the record. Someone should take action against this corrpution. I am disturb but since I am lower staff so can not do anything” a lady ngo workers.

“We hope Chief Justice will take suo moto action against inefficiency, corruption of district administration in relief aid distribution process. Someone should send horrible pictures of idps to him for action” said by a journalist.

IDP Guidelines Principle # 18 : All the internally dispalced persons have the right to an adequate standard of living. ……………………………..Authorities shall ensure IDPs safe access to essential food, portable water, basic shelter and housing, appropriate clothing and essential medical services and sanitation.

Food insecurity amidst plenty of food

One small bag of food for more than 60 women can not be enoug! Why this simple mathematics is not being understood by the State representatives, district adminsitrations. ‘All is well,’ everywhere in Pakistan-in rain ravaged areas of Sindh, Pakistan. This is we hear when we talk to government officials, elected representatives and those who are responsible for distribution of relief aid in in Badin, Mirpurkhas, Tando Allahyar, Tando Mohummad Khan, Jhudo, Degree, Sanghar and other areas affected by the rain and floods.

IDP Women Living in Fear of Hunger and Starvation

This picture shows the condition in which displaced people in Sindh live in. They are living in hunger and fear of starvation. Nationals of a nuclear power are living in hunger and in constant fear of starvation.Food security refers to the availability of food and people’s access to it. An individual, a family, a household is considered secure when its occupants do not live in hunger and fear of starvation. The purpose of showing this picture is to draw attention of both the Pakistani state and the international community towards the plight of people displaced due to severe rain and heavy floods. This picture shows women striving for food to survive. Why we have failed to understand a simply philosophy that a malnourished mother can not breastfeed a malnourished child, therefore, child protection without women protection will not work. There is urgent need to include gender perspective in relief efforts and disaster management. More Gender sensitive disaster management is needed in all affected districts of Sindh where women and children are already suffering more than anyone else.

Principle 11 of IDP Guidelines: Every human being has the right to dignity and physical, mental and moral integrity.

Most Affected Yet Most Neglected : Silent Victims of Disasters

Most Affected Yet Most Neglected

Low caste minority groups are the most affected by the rain and floods; they are the one who have suffered the most. But at the same time, they are the one who are most neglected. Unable to access relief aid in Tando Allahyar, Badin, Mirpurkhas, Tando Mohumad Khan and other flood affected areas. They are mostly excluded by the government and other actors, control the distribution of relief aid.

When we asked Neelo Kolhi about his loss in current disaster. He replied, “We have lost everything: Crops, live stock and even our savings. We won’t be able to cultivate next crops.We will be in abject debt.We are born to live in debt and suffer.”

In response to our question that whether there is fair a treatment in the relief aid distribution process. Gulab, who does tailoring, said: “They do not consider us human. Hindus are animals” Apparently, caste or religion based discrimination is illegal in Pakistan and not backed by the constitution. However, prejudice against Kolhi, Bheel, Bageri, Meghwar and other alleged low castes seeps not only into government policies and programmes but also in social attitudes. When a displaced Kolhi woman gave birth to a baby on the roadside in Tando Allahyar, a shopkeeper said: “They (Kolhi) always do like that and are ok with it. Its normal for them” It explains why Kolhi, bheel, meghwar, bagri oad and other castes or groups suffers in disasters.

 Five class passed, Ranjhu Meghwar, said, “we have heard that Government has announced that a damage assessment is going on and soon affected people would be compensated for the loss of property, livestock and farms. We know we will get nothing. Even though we are the most affected.” In order to deal with such rooted discrimination and prejudice, we demand that the disaster Management policy guidelines and standards for relief and rehabilitation should recognize the reality of exclusion of these groups and take strong measure for its prevention and take special measure to reach these groups and people. RightsNow Pakistan has observed that whenever disaster strikes, help and relief reach these people last. We have observed during our visits that these groups are not on the agenda of policy makers and elected representatives. Their survival is at stake if proper and collective response is not given by the Government, UN, International NGOs and local civil society. RightsNow Pakistan calls for recognization of the acuse difficulties and plight of minorities in Pakistan and in disaster affected areas in particular.

IDP Guidelines Principle # 24 – All humanitarian assistance shall be carried out in accordance with the principles of humanity, impartiallity and without discrimination.

Another aspect which needs to be seen in the current context of disaster is bonded labor. Many farmers and laborers shared their pains on the condition of anonimity that their movement is restricted even in this disasters. They can not move to safer and higher places because they are in debt and their landlords are not allowing them to leave. They have to live in areas surrounded by water even without food.

IDP Guidelines Princple # 11 (b) Slavery or any form of slavery, such as sale into marriage, sexual exploitation, or forced labour of children. ….IDPs also have right to seek safety in another part of the country (IDP Guideline 15).

All vulnerabilities together: How does mai Keeku  an old, hindu, widow woman feel now after this disaster? Mai Keeku says: “Womanhood deprives us from our rights. You are weaker when you belongs to a non-muslim community. Your oldage further add to your pain and plight.” Being a widow, I always feel like negelcted and the weakest person.”

Principle 19 (2) IDP Guidelines: Special attention should be paid to the health needs of women, including access to female health care providers and services………

Principle # 4 (2)- Certain internally dispalced persons, such as children especially unaccompanied minors, expectant mothers, mothers with young children, female heads of household, persons with disabilities and elderly persons, shall be entittled to protection and assistance required by their condition……..

Mai Keku Bheelan – a widow – Head of household

IDP Guidelines Principle 24: International humanitarian organizations and other appropriate actors have the right to offer their services in support of internally displaced. Such an offer shall not be regarded as an unfreindly act or interference in a State’s internal affairs.

IDP Guideline Principle 27: International humanitarian organziations and other appropriate actors when providing assistance should give due regard to the protection needs and human rights of internally dispalced persons and take measures in this regard.

IDP Guidelines Principle 28 (2) -Special efforts should be made to ensure the full participation of internally dispalced persons in the planing, and management of their return, resettlement and reintegration.


  • The Government of Pakistan MUST hold inquiries and take action against corrupt officials who have eaten all money which was supposed to be spent on displaced people.
  • Pakistan Government, international community and local civil society MUST shift from a relief, welfare and charity based approach to a rights-based approach in disaster management. So people do not feel their dignity compromised.
  • MUST Integrate human rights, gender sensitivity and zero-discrimination in all development policies, programs, planning and implementation.
  •  Transparency International and other organizations monitor corruption MUST monitor the relief aid distribution process.
  • Emergency and disaster management MUST focus on Prevention, if failed, mitigation, if failed, rescue and relief and reconstruction.
  • MUST involve all stakeholders in disaster management and other decision making processes
  • MUST create such an enabling environment for ensuring higher participation of all stakeholders
  • Have realized the strong role of lawyers and legal tools in protection of human rights and ensuring the fair process of aid distribution. Advocate/lawyers MUST be the part of the process who could also give legislative backing to the disaster management.
  • Federal Government should ensure that the provincial government and district administration MUST have contingency plan along with an established trigger mechanism whose execution could respond the emergency timely.
  • MUST strengthen community based coping mechanism for dealing with disaster.
  • MUST promote a spirit of volunteerism and prevent opportunism and materialism.
  • Philanthropist MUST play their role in the society in general and in disasters in particular.
  • International community (governments, donors, philanthropist, students) MUST support Pakistan and Pakistani people in this difficult time when nation is between devil and deep sea (terrorism and natural disasters).
  • Old people, pregnant women and children MUST be given priority in the aid distribution.

  1. ghainy says:

    good dear Ali i appereciate ur effort u r raising the voice and u r showing also the real picture of idps but our govt is i think completly paralyse it also depend others. but if all the Ngos work together then we can overcome this situation plz all the sectors think about it .it is a natural disater give the support them

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