• About CIVIC

    CIVIC is a Washington-based non-profit organization that believes the civilians injured and the families of those killed should be recognized and helped by the warring parties involved.

    On this blog, you will find stories from our travels around the world as we meet with civilians and military, aid organizations and government in our quest to get war victims the help they need.

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    Sarah, Executive Director

    Marla B, Managing Director

    Kristele, Field Director

    Liz, Chief Communications Officer

    Trevor, CIVIC's fellow based in Afghanistan

    Chris, CIVIC's fellow based in Pakistan

    Jon, CIVIC's US military consultant

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PAKISTAN: Internally displaced in Islamabad

Child crouching next to bags or 'kits' of non-food items (NFIs) distributed to IDPs. NFI kits typically include kitchen items, blankets, mats, and a bucket.

By Chris

Life is difficult for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Tarnol—a slum outside of Islamabad.  It is a dusty, desolate place on the outskirts of the city.  Its streets are narrow and unpaved, lined with cramped homes, many held together by earthen bricks and animal dung.  Most of the displaced are crowded into relatives’ homes or renting small rooms.  They struggle to sustain large, extended families on less than $2.50 a day—the amount men can earn unloading trucks in nearby industrial areas.

Tens of thousands of IDPs, mostly from Swat Valley and Bajaur Agency, have settled in slums such as Taronl all around Islamabad.  Along with millions of others, they were forced to flee their homes because of fighting between the Pakistani military and Taliban-aligned militants.

Children of displaced families watch the distribution of NFI kits to a growing crowd of IDPs.

I visited Tarnol with a Pakistani NGO, SHARP, which works with UNHCR to distribute non-food items to IDPs, such as buckets, blankets, and mats.  By the time we arrived at the distribution point, a crowd of around a hundred men had already gathered.  As the distribution got underway, it became clear that around half would not receive anything because they were from a different area and SHARP could not verify their registration.  Intense negotiations with community elders ensued and the crowd grew increasingly agitated.  Men with wooden clubs stood outside SHARP’s small office, attempting to keep control.

Despite the aid distributed, the desperation of the people was evident.  In an unfamiliar city, far away from their villages and farms, many families are dependent on the meager and sporadic aid provided by relief agencies.  They want to return and resume their lives but continuing insecurity and lack of money prevents them from doing so.  In the meantime, many fear what has happened to their homes, property, and businesses—and how they will rebuild once they return.

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GUEST BLOGGER: BDPs and Problem of Lack of Info, Pt. 2

Posted By: Rebecca W., working with CIVIC’s Erica in Afghanistan

Read Part 1, by Erica, on Kabul…

KANDAHAR – On a recent trip to Kandahar, I heard similar stories about the “guessing approach” that aid agencies are forced to adopt in their efforts to assist Battle-Displaced Persons (BDPs). Access to information is a problem that is intensified by a high level of corruption amongst government officials and a lack of monitoring after aid has been distributed. A UN World Food Programme (WFP) representative told me that he faced “tremendous problems” establishing the numbers of BDPs that require assistance. After one military operation in Helmand, he was told by local government officials that 8,000 families – or approximately 48,000 people – had been displaced. After contacting the British PRT in Helmand and the US marines, and after WFP’s implementing partners went into the field, WFP managed to establish that only 1000-1500 BDPs actually required assistance. According to the WFP representative, such inflation of numbers is not uncommon and shows how “the government authorities are taking advantage of our aid.” Kandahar government officials, he said, will send him “fake lists” of BDPs that include IDPs and even, in one instance, a list of individuals from a village that simply did not exist. Another problem is the fact that there is not, as yet, a system in place that tracks the BDPs who have been helped. “We give people a one-time food distribution,” the representative told me, “and then we don’t know what happens to these people. Then the government comes with another list and there’s a good chance that the same people appear again as BDPs who need help. We have no way of knowing.”

BDPs and Problem of Lack of Info, Pt. 1

Posted By: Erica

Below is the first of two separate reports on the information vacuum that exists when assessing the need for humanitarian aid to battle-displaced persons.  Both my report and the future report form Rebecca, our guest blogger, highlight the difficulty of properly assessing, delivering and evaluating aid to those harmed by conflict.

KABUL – Last week I met with several staff members from the United Nations HCR who work specifically with assisting battle-displaced persons (BDPs) in Afghanistan. Particularly in the conflict-prone south of Afghanistan, near Kandahar and Helmand, assisting those who are battle-displaced can be a never-ending cycle. Recent news articles have focused on large numbers of displaced civilians in Arghandab and Garmser . like UNHCR, together with the World Food Program, the International Red Crescent or other humanitarian agencies, Agencies have the tough task of trying to develop enough emergency relief supplies – tents, blankets, food, clean water – to allow these families to survive in the immediate aftermath of conflict. Their work is often compromised by lack of access to credible information. Because of security concerns, they often cannot go to the site of the conflict, and have to depend on reports from the military, journalists, community leaders etc. “Often it means splitting the difference between what the military says and the community leaders say,” one UNHCR representative told me. “If the community says 3,000 and ISAF says 300, we prepare enough provisions for somewhere in the middle of that.”

Aiding Garmsir’s refugees

Posted By: Erica

Since the end of April, hundreds of Afghan families have fled the Garmsir region of Helmand province due to fighting between insurgents and US-led forces. High estimates by the Afghan Red Crescent Society and by the UN agency for refugees in Afghanistan have suggested that as many as 1000 families have fled. Other media and NGO sources I spoke to reported displacement of a few hundred families. The US military spokeswoman I spoke to, Kelly Frushour, suggested the military only saw a few hundred people displaced. Continue reading