Once famous for its serenity, tourism and hospitality, the beautiful valley of Swat in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) now has a deserted look. The ongoing fighting between the armed forces and militants has forced hundreds of thousands of people to migrate to safer places.
Inter-tribal violence in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has also resulted in large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs). For all these people, food and shelter are the primary needs.
Noor Muhammad, with a family of eight to feed, tells his story: "I came from Khawazakhella town where I was working as a labourer for a daily wage that enabled my family to survive. As the fighting increased, we had no other option but to leave our home. Life is so difficult my children are traumatized; my wife and mother are scared."
WFP has been able to provide food assistance to 208,000 displaced people, 171,000 of them living in host communities and 37,000 were in IDP camps.
Distribution points have been established in Peshawar, Mardan, Swabi, Charsada and Nowshera districts, whereas Kohat will soon be operational to cater to the growing number and needs of the IDPs.
Aside from wheat flour, vegetable oil, pulses and salt, WFP food assistance also includes high energy biscuits and nutrient rich blended food for vulnerable mothers and children.
"We really don’t know who is fighting who and for what reasons," said Noor Muhammad after receiving his ration at a WFP food distribution point in the Mardan district. "We always hear 10 Taliban have been killed here, five soldiers died there. We have been here for the last month and have got by thanks to the month’s food ration that WFP has provided us with. We are hoping that the fighting will soon end and we will go back to our homeland
The challenge for WFP and other humanitarian agencies in the coming months will be to better assist the vast majority of IDPs that are still residing with host communities. This is important so as to prevent a potential “pull-factor” from well serviced camps. Repatriation from these camps may become difficult in the future.