JALOZAI, Pakistan, 28 May (UNHCR) – At the age of 20, when young women dream of a fabulous future, Sajida’s life took an irreparable turn for the worse. Married at 17 and widowed at 20, this young mother of a three month old baby boy lost her 20 year old husband in an IED explosion in Jalozai camp, Nowshera near the WFP food distribution hub on 21 March 2013. Sajida’s husband, Sher Rahman, was just one of the fifteen ill-fated persons who lost their lives in that tragic and senseless act of violence.
Sajida’s fate now rests in the hands of her grandfather-in-law and her brothers-in-law. “I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I am worried about my child’s future; how will I feed him and clothe him.” Sajida said in a broken voice, quietly sobbing behind her veil.
Jalozai camp is currently home to some 12,600 families who have fled different waves of violence in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of the country. Women and children constitute a vast majority of these Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who need special care and attention. UNHCR, together with other humanitarian agencies, is supporting the government authorities that are primarily responsible for the administration of Jalozai camp and for ensuring the safety and security of the displaced population.
Under the UN inter-agency cluster approach, UNHCR is the lead protection, shelter and camp management agency. In this capacity, one of the agency’s top protection priorities and responsibilities includes assisting vulnerable children and women like Sajida. UNHCR, with the help of its protection partner agencies, is now looking into her case to ensure that she has unhindered access to assistance. When her husband was alive, Sajida did not have to line-up in the ration queues to collect food.
For the identification of women and children at risk like Sajida, UNHCR and its partners regularly conduct Focus Group Discussions with IDPs to discuss their concerns. Protection monitoring teams organize community meetings, advise IDPs on the provision of assistance and services, conduct meetings, and follow-up with service providers to ensure access to services and facilitate the replacement of lost or damaged registration forms.
Other protection interventions that UNHCR undertakes with the support of the protection cluster and partner organisations include the registration of newly displaced persons and provision of legal assistance through maintaining four legal clinics run by its partners.
UNHCR, through its partners, maintains four “Grievance Desks” in Jalozai camp to register the IDPs’ protection concerns and to ensure the timely solution of all grievances related to their displacement. In view of cultural sensitivities, separate “Grievance Desks” have been set-up for both men and women. IDPs are provided with essential advice/information on issues relating to food distribution, the return process, return packages and durable solutions.
A mobile protection team also assists IDPs with problems related to civil documentation, rental remedies, registration procedures or other legal matters. It provides legal assistance at food hubs on problems concerning NADRA (National Database and Registration Authority) processes, school enrolment, examinations and attestation of documents in the district courts and makes referrals to other service providers depending on the issue at hand.
UNHCR also offers psychosocial support for vulnerable women like Sajida; such as single mothers as well as victims of sexual and/or domestic violence. Through its Community Services interventions, UNHCR maintains five Women’s Community Centres (WCCs) and eight Men’s Community Centers (MCCs) that are run by its partners.
These initiatives provide safe spaces for women and men with integrated services and activities. They also improve resilience and coping mechanisms, and reduce the risk of exposure to situations of neglect and exploitation.
While it is primarily the UN’s Refugee Agency, UNHCR in Pakistan also actively assists the government authorities in their efforts to ensure that the basic human rights of internally displaced people are respected. “UNHCR underlines the importance of dedicating special attention to camp environments, particularly for the most vulnerable segments of the population such as women, girls and boys, and ensures that adequate referral mechanisms to prevent Sexual Gender Base Violence (SGBV) and support for the survivors of such violence are effective,” said Neill Wright, UNHCR Representative in Islamabad. Mr. Wright added, “UNHCR will continue to maintain an active presence in Jalozai camp and cooperate with governmental institutions and other humanitarian agencies to reinforce the protective environment inside the camp.”
Sajida’s story reflects the cost of war on women and children; the agony of widowhood was evident in her silent tears. Ironically, she is one of the fortunate few who enjoy the protection of a huge extended family compared with many other women in the same camp, who have no choice but to fight the battle for survival on their own.
By Shandana Saad and Duniya Aslam Khan
in Jalozai Camp, Nowshehra