Hosts of Pakistan's fleeing masses on brink of their own displacement, World Vision warns
- Hosts selling assets and sharing everything they have, risking extreme poverty and their own displacement
- A host villager agonises, "It will be easier to die than to ask displaced to leave."
Islamabad, 28 May 2009 - Poor communities in Pakistan's northwest are hosting up to two million people uprooted by recent violence in the region. Aid agency World Vision warns these communities - already among the poorest in the world - may join those displaced in days as their assets are sold to help those in need.
"Families have provided refuge for up to 90 percent of those escaping the fighting," said Graham Strong, World Vision's Country Director in Pakistan. "They are sharing their homes, food, clothes and water. They are poor already and are making themselves poorer in the process."
Many assets are being sold to meet the growing need. "As the disaster continues," explained Strong, "hosts are having to sell their land, cattle and other assets at far less than the market value in order to keep providing for their guests."
As the only international aid agency providing assistance in Buner District, World Vision talked to host villagers whose limited resources are almost depleted.
They expressed a major concern that their cultural code of hospitality and compassion is being stretched to its limit and could be masking the scale of the need caused by the crisis.
"Without urgent assistance there is a real fear that impoverished host communities could contribute to another wave of internal displacement," said Strong.
"The cultural ethic of generosity and hospitality means hosts are now facing the agonising choice between asking guests to leave or becoming destitute and displaced themselves," he continued.
World Vision found hosts often have little or no connection with those taking refuge in their homes.
A 59-year-old man in Buner has taken 37 people into his home. "Many host families have exhausted their wealth and will have to leave themselves or ask their guests to leave. It will be easier to die than to ask families to leave," he said.
Basic services such as health, education, water and sanitation are being stretched to breaking point, World Vision learnt from its rapid assessment in Buner. It found pregnant and lactating women and children under five are extremely vulnerable, with access to healthcare and medical supplies in one of Pakistan's poorest communities already depleted.
To alleviate the situation, aid agencies are urging donors to fully fund appeals to allow them to address the needs of both the host communities as well as those fleeing violence.
World Vision is concerned global fundraising efforts will be impacted by the financial crisis.
"We urge the international community to follow the example of Pakistan's communities who have demonstrated extreme generosity in the hardest of circumstances," said Strong.
World Vision is distributing health kits, mattresses and essential household items in Buner and hopes to raise $13 million to address the urgent needs of more than 200,000 people in Buner, Swabi and Mardan in northwest Pakistan.
World Vision staff in Pakistan are available for interviews. Please contact Chris Webster in Islamabad on +92 (0)3445888815 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
World Vision has been working in Pakistan since 1992, focusing on emergency relief and response, child protection, HIV and AIDS awareness, sustainable economic development through programmes such as organic farming, health and hygiene, and empowering women through vocational training and literacy programmes.