70-year-old Abdul Mannan surveys the small room where he is sitting; the walls are bare, the floor made from mud and the only possessions in it are a few pieces of old furniture, but this is now his home. 24 members of his family including his wife Gul Meena, his sons and his grandchildren are all staying in this cramped space.
The family came to the village of Surkh Dheri three weeks ago after fleeing conflict in their village in Swat. They are staying with Mohammed Yousuf who like so many people in the region has opened his doors to provide shelter for displaced families. Abdul Mannan is grateful for the generosity that Mohammed has shown but with every day that passes their living conditions become more and more difficult.
Nothing but a few blankets
There are only five beds for the 24 family members in the room and a few blankets and cushions that have been donated to them. They have nothing else. The family fled their home with nothing and have been entirely reliant on local people since they arrived in Surkh Dheri.
No access to clean water
The house has no running water so the family have to collect it from a nearby open well but the water in it is dirty. There are no sanitary facilities either so they have had to dig their own latrine. Given these unhygienic living conditions it is not surprising that nearly all the children in the family are suffering from diarrhoea.
Children are scared
The children are also suffering from the psychological affects of the conflict and their displacement. Abdul Mannan explained that the violence they witnessed has left his grandchildren scared. He said that his neighbour’s home was attacked and destroyed and that six members of the family were killed. Now whenever they hear a loud noise his grandchildren run inside and start crying.
Care at the Mercy Centre
Abdul Mannan’s grandchildren are attending the local Mercy Centre set up by Islamic Relief in Surkh Dheri. This centre provides a safe space for children to play, basic education and also psychosocial support. Psychologists at the centre are currently assessing those suffering from trauma and providing them with counselling and support through play and education.
The centre also provides basic health care through a mobile health team and health awareness-raising sessions are being arranged to help improve hygiene practices and reduce the incidence of diarrhoea. While these services will help families like Abdul Mannan’s to cope in the short term, in the long-term all they want to do is return home.
Gul Meena said, “We are only just surviving, but this is not a real life. Back home we had our own successful business growing wheat, vegetables and fruit. We made a good income and had a large house. Now we don’t even have enough food, clothes or blankets.
“If I could return home tomorrow I would but it is still too dangerous. I don’t know how I will feel when I return and see my village again. I don’t even know if there will be anything left.”
Praying for peace
“We used to grow peaches, apricots and plums in the local orchards but we have lost all the fruit from this season,” explained Abdul Mannan. “We weren’t able to return home to pick the last crop and when I spoke to a neighbour a few days ago he told me that all the fruit had rotted. We have lost a lot of income and we may have to sell our house. But as long as peace prevails we will cope.”
Islamic Relief is supporting many children affected by the conflict through its Mercy Centres and working to meet people’s basic needs such as access to healthcare. To help make our work possible, we need your continued support. Please donate here.