Here is a speech delivered by the CEO SRSP Masood UL Mulk at the UN Flash Appeal at the National Library in Islamabad. The four speakers on this occasion were the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, The Federal Minister for Finance and Planning Ms Khar, the Chief Secretary of NWFP and Masood Ul Mulk the Chief Executive of SRSP
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On 15th May SRSP teams based at the Transit Facilitation Center on the Malakand Mardan road, established with the help of UNHCR, to receive displaced people observed that more than 400 vehicles came down that road each hour, continuously, for almost twelve hours carrying people fleeing the war. This was a tale repeated many times and at many points on many days.
Less than 20% of these people found space in the camps established by the government to receive them. Some went to government schools. The vast majority were taken care of by the moral economy of the area reflected in its social networks, strong ties of reciprocity and traditions of hospitality and humanity.
In the village of Rustum Suddum some of the elders of the area got together and raised resources from friends and family to provide food for fifteen days for over five thousand people. They also bought sewing machines to establish a handicraft centre where the women could work on the handicraft skills they brought with them from Swabi and help ease their trauma.
In the Government Primary School Jalala, located in a poor neighbourhood, where more than 85 people from Swabi and Swat have found refuge, their hosts shared with them whatever little they had for days and days.
In Government High School Jalala where more than 400 people have found a home the school teacher took the initiative to use his school funds to feed them, sacrificing rules for compassion.
In the village of Salim Khan more than 68 people were put up and fed by a man of the middle class for thirteen days before they got linked to government services in the school.
These, ladies and gentlemen, are not isolated incidents but were the rule found repeatedly in villages, as tales of how the endless stream of human beings were helped is told again and again.
We have to recall that this was a unique crisis in terms of the size of the displaced people, the speed at which the crisis occurred, the movement from cool climatic zones to which they are accustomed to, to the hot burning temperatures where they were moving to for the displaced people.
The nature of the habitations which have sprung up to support the displaced people are also unique; some live in camps, some in government schools and a vast majority in homes as guests or some in rented quarters and a few in spontaneous camps or under the shades of some trees or the banks of a canal.
The needs of the people also reflect this diversity. Addressing the issues of high temperatures may be a most pressing issue in camps, in schools it would be: medical aid, space for women to engage in activities to overcome their trauma, overcrowding in a limited room, a place where they could wash their clothes etc.
Cash is an important consideration everywhere because small needs like buying milk for the children or medicine for a sick family member remains unfulfilled or even procuring a hygiene kit. For those living in villages paying for the place if it is rented and also getting linked with service providers is important.
We all know that for the vast majority of the people from middle and lower levels of income there is a limit to the sacrifice they can make to help their neighbours in distress. Fatigue is bound to set in. While the social networks and peoples generosity has helped temper the crisis the battle can only be won by a sustained effort by the government and its partners. Fortunately the Government, UN Agencies and their partners have moved fast to cope with the situation. Greater registeration points, more food distribution places and getting non food items rapidly to the people will bring more and more in the ambit of official aid and help ease the pressures rapidly.
More will have to be done to address medical needs, needs of women and children by being creative and by being sensitive to them. The government has taken positive steps to ensure that learning from the field and lessons of earthquake 2005 are not lost by feeding them into programmes to improve them. It has also taken good steps to ensure transparency of its systems, to win the confidence of all stakeholders and also to work closely with UN Agencies, donors and partners to attain their common objectives.
It has also provided civil society the space to be part of the efforts.
In 2007 SRSP had worked with UNHCR to provide non food items to over 23,000 households living outside camps from displacements in Mohmand and Bajaur in five districts. We learnt to appreciate how difficult it is to reach them when displaced people are not equated with camps and have to be traced and found and helped. But what has been reassuring is that every school or village we have visited the people sacrificing to extend help had one common thing to say. Da Zamoong Malmaney De, Aw Da Akphal Khalq De. These are our guests; and these are our own people. These simple words uttered by the communities epitomize the standards by which public service will be judged in this crisis and the standards which we all will have to uphold.
I pray that when the people we are trying to help return to their homes, one day, they would smilingly say that in their moments of trial and tribulations the world stood with them and helped ease their pain, shared their sorrows, brought joy to their lives, eased their trauma, reached the most vulnerable among them and did it all while preserving their dignity and in the process won their hearts and minds.