“The three million people who have now been displaced by the fighting in North-West Pakistan have settled in areas where people routinely struggle to access the basic necessities of life. With the influx of so many people the conditions have gone from bad to worse. I cannot imagine for instance, what it must be like for more than 20 people to be living in one room with no clean water and no sanitation facilities.
The displacement has been the first disaster these people have faced, but I fear that poor hygiene conditions could bring a secondary disaster as diseases spread and rates of child mortality rise.
Driving through the village of Char Gulli in Mardan it is not unusual to see children washing clothes, bathing and playing in dirty streams of water that run by the side of the road. These streams carry water from the fields and with it the excrement of the various animals that graze in them. The water is a dirty grey colour and it must pose a serious health risk for these young children.
I am not surprised therefore that skins diseases and diarrhea are rife amongst the displaced population, and also the host community. At the Basic Health Unit in Char Gulli I met 10 month old Tamana and her mother Zainab. Tamana had diarrhea and was seriously dehydrated so had been out on a drip. Zainab said that this was the third time that her daughter had been ill like this and that her other children were also suffering.
The majority of the displaced people that I spoke told of the large houses they used to live in that were surrounded by beautiful orchards and fields. Now they are sharing a small room with 20 other people and do not even have access to clean water or a sanitary latrine.
Yesterday I spent some time at the Government Boys High School in Char Gulli where Islamic Relief is installing new latrines and hand-pumps. This school is sheltering more than 450 displaced people who have made the various classrooms their homes.
Sheets have been strung between the rooms to try and offer some privacy but inside the classrooms people have nothing. The floors are bare and dirty, the windows broken, and there is no furniture apart from a few blankets. There is not a working latrine in the whole school and nowhere for people to wash.
This school is home to one month old Laila who is living here with her sister and two brothers and their uncle’s family. Laila is suffering from scabies and diarrhea as a result of the unsanitary conditions she is living in. She is clearly very unwell and I worry about how her family will be able to care for her in such difficult circumstances. I hope that the clean water and sanitation facilities Islamic Relief is providing will help to prevent further spread of disease amongst other children at the school. But I am also concerned about the many other little girls like Laila who are sick and suffering, but who have no help at all.”
Islamic Relief is working to provide people with access to clean water and sanitation facilities. We are building new hand pumps, latrines and washrooms in schools and houses that are hosting thousands of displaced people. Please donate here to help us continue this life saving work.