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World Humanitarian Day 2016 #sharehumanity

Today, 19 August, is World Humanitarian Day, a global event to recognise humanitarian workers and those who have lost their lives working on the front lines of crisis. The day also helps to bring stories of people and communities in crisis situations to light. 

To mark the day, Sadia Irum, our Humanitarian Programme Manager in Pakistan shares three examples of Trócaire’s recent humanitarian work in the country.

1. Rapid response following the 2015 earthquake in Pakistan

Earthquake damage in Northern Pakistan, Oct 2015. Photo courtesy of Pak Rural Development Program.

Earthquake damage in Northern Pakistan, Oct 2015. Photo courtesy of Pak Rural Development Program.

On 26 October 2015, an earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale struck northern  Pakistan, including major population centres. Over 200 people were killed and more than 1,000 people were injured. 

Communication systems were disrupted in many areas and roads were blocked due to landslides. Thousands of people were forced to sleep outdoors in near-freezing temperatures, reluctant to go back inside due to a fear of aftershocks. 

The Government of Pakistan, and in particular the army, was mobilised as first responders and conducted significant search and rescue operations.

Many people were displaced. Men, women and children were evacuated to safe sites adjacent to their homes in temporary shelters or moved to nearby villages to stay with relatives. Women and girls had limited privacy in these living arrangements.

Together with three local partners: Mojaz Foundation, Pak Rural Development Program and United, Motivation, Education and Empowerment for Development (UMEED) Foundation, Trócaire set about responding to the needs of such families. 

Distribution site Lower Dir, Courtesy of UMEED Foundation, October 2015

Distribution site Lower Dir, Courtesy of UMEED Foundation, October 2015

Within five days of the earthquake occurring, we had gathered sufficient information about the needs of affected communities in the north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and began distributing vital shelter materials including tents, blankets and sleeping mats.

Our response targeted people living at high altitudes which although difficult to reach, were among the worst affected areas. We provided shelter kits to 3,530 families, reaching a total of 16,202 people.

Bibi1, 37 year old, received a shelter kit and said, “It was really a big support to me as I was able to protect my children from the cold weather and keep them warm. We were not sleeping properly and now we can. It was because of Trócaire and its partner that we were protected from the weather and our lives were saved”.

Trócaire’s response was generously support by Start Network, Irish Aid and the Irish public.

2. Providing safe spaces to displaced women and girls 

Rabia in a women's safe space

Rabia in a women-friendly space in Peshawar, Pakistan, 2016

Rabia was engaged to be married at the age of 12 years. After her marriage her family did not allow her to continue her education.
As a result of conflict in 2014, her family were displaced and moved to Peshawar.
Trócaire’s partner in Pakistan, UMEED Foundation established women friendly spaces in Rabia’s village.
In this space, the now 16 year old Rabia meets other girls her age and they discuss their concerns and practice embroidery, cooking and stitching.
Rabia said, “I felt I had no value among family and community. I could not study or learn. I was destined to live a limited life.”
The programme also provided sessions on life skills, psycho-social support and skills training for income generation.
Rabia added, “I feel now I am changed. I feel more positive about life. I am safe here and am with friends.”
“My parents also see the great change in me and have allowed my two younger sisters to join the programme. Even though I could not continue my education, I am happy to learn different skills and I can work to support my family.”
Growing evidence shows that in times of humanitarian crisis, both in conflict or following natural disasters, child marriage rates increase, with a disproportionate impact on girls.
Education provides a myriad of opportunities for girls from self-confidence and social stability to earning opportunities and better health outcomes.
Empowering girls by providing support networks and creating ‘safe spaces’ where girls can gather and meet outside the home, have multiple social benefits, changing norms and attitudes and helping girls to assert their rights.

Trócaire’s response was generously support by the Irish public.

3. Rebuilding after severe flooding

Community flees flooded area in 2014

Community flees flooded area in 2014

My name is Aqeel. I’m eleven years old. I live in a beautiful village with green fields and a big ground where we used to play cricket. I go to school in a nearby town with my cousins. 

I want to be a teacher when I grow up. I live with my grandmother, my three siblings and my mother.

My mother grows wheat and vegetables. We also have one cow and some hens which give us milk and eggs. 

In September 2014, heavy rains fell. The river water level rose up very high. One day there was an announcement in the local mosque that there was a flood warning. 

We were asked to leave our village. Everyone rushed to take their families, animals, some food and some belongings to the camp in a high, safe place. 

The flood hit my village. My house was swept away. Our crops were destroyed. 

Aqeel and friends lend a hand Courtesy of Mojaz Foundation. April 2015

Aqeel and friends lend a hand. Courtesy of Mojaz Foundation. April 2015

After 22 days in the camp we went back to our village. 

The only road to the  village was destroyed, making it difficult to get to the school, hospital and market. 

Trócaire and its partner Mojaz Foundation supported the people in my village to come together and fix the road. 

I’m too young to work at fixing a road, but I wanted to help. I started bringing drinking water to the men working on the road. 

I also got my cousins and friends to help. Now the road is fixed and we can get to school and the hospital. We can also transport vegetables to the market to sell them. I hope my story explains the difficult time we faced when the flood came.

Watch: Trócaire’s response to flooding the Punjab area in 2014

Trócaire’s response was generously support by the Irish public.

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