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Pakistan crisis: makeshift shelters

Since the beginning of the military operation in Pakistan over 2.5 million civilians have left the combat zone. The majority of these people have made their way to Mardan district, to the south of Swat. Many have sought refuge along the roadsides in so-called “spontaneous camps”.

If the conditions in Mardan’s schools are bad, conditions in these camps, now home to several thousand people along this stretch of road alone, are even worse. 

Fleeing the fighting

Majid, a resident of one of these camps, described how he and his relatives left Swat on foot. They walked for 13 hours, before resting overnight and continuing their journey to Mardan the following day.

The intense fighting in the area left them in fear for their lives, so they had no choice but to lock their homes and flee. Madjid is staying with relatives in a makeshift camp which is situated between a railway line and a busy road.

Difficult conditions

“Life here is very difficult”, says Majid. “We have no food for the infants and no medical care for the pregnant women who are forced to sleep on the ground in this heat.” Because of the poor toilet facilities (four temporary toilets have been dug for the camp residents), infectious disease is an issue. Several of the children in this camp have already been diagnosed with typhoid, and diarrhoea is a common problem.

Situation getting worse

With each passing day, the situation in Mardan deteriorates. Those who have found themselves homeless due to the fighting explain that they need every kind of assistance. This includes medical care, water, sanitation facilities, household utensils and clothing. However, the most common need expressed by the people who have fled Swat is their need to return to their homes. Unfortunately, it is not clear when they will be able to do so.

Alif Hustan, another resident of this spontaneous camp in Jahingirabad, is fearful for the future of his family and his fellow community members. “The monsoon rains will arrive soon, and this low lying area will be inundated with water”, he said. “I don’t know what we will do then.”