We arrived in Pakistan a couple of days ago and want to inform you of our progress. We have contacted ambassadors, non-profit organizations dealing with the displaced people, and visited refugee camps.
We presented our proposal to Jerald Feirerstein, the DCM, at the American Embassy and his team. Liane Dorsey, Coordinator for Refugees, and Mr. Dwyers, of the USAID/OFDA and Jason Jefferys, the Political Officer,who were all enthusiastic to hear about the work we intend to carry out. Our main proposal of providing health-teams for the refugees from the local population was welcomed. We will also be providing names and list of professionals among the refugee population to Mr Dwyers of the USAID so he can circulate it to different NGO’s and encourage them to higher professions from the refugee population to provide services to other refugees living in camps. Our Family members have been giving immediate aid packages to newly displaced people. We will have a sustained campaign that will allow Swatis to get maximum services from their own people in this difficult environment while allowing them to maintain their dignity.
We have also met with the DCMs of Canada, UK, France and the Afghan acting Ambassador who were eager to do their part. The Afghan Ambassador relayed that this situation was familiar to him over the last decade in his own country. He was especially sympathetic as he is an ethnic Pashtun.
We have also met with non-profit organizations like the Human Development Foundation. We hope to coordinate our visits to the camps in Mardan with them. They will give us logistic support because they are familiar with the camps and the refugees who are living in various camps and schools. Mr. Eric Barese of Red Cross USA has put us in touch with their affiliate who is the Secretary-General of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society.
Yesterday we visited a camp of internally displaced Swatis now settled in the Adiyala area of Rawalpindi. There were 20 houses that had been hired by semi-professionals with 50 to 100 people per house. The majority in a household were children who were visiting the local madrassas in place of their regular schools. The Professionals complained that as they were not housed in tents they were not recognized and received the minimal of help. For these professionals standing in long lines for rations was humiliating and even then there was no guarantee that after hours of waiting that they would receive anything. The local population, however, have been most welcoming and cooperative in the short-term.
These internally displaced people feel very dejected and there is a cloud of gloom and doom hanging over the entire population. Since we arrived here, there have been four bomb blasts in two major cities (Lahore and Peshawar). We are working under these difficult circumstances and are also aware that things in Pakistan move slowly, but we feel we are making good headway. The internally displaced people are hoping that the problem will be resolved soon and that they will be able to return, otherwise they would not be able to afford rents or to sustain their families and the good will of the local population will dissipate.
We will continue to keep you posted about the situation here.