Saturday, September 27, 2014

Visit to IDPs camp, Bannu, KPK

A human crisis, or one of the several human crises born on this unfortunate land, displacement of North Waziristan residents on account of military operation has taken a heavy toll on over all wellbeing of the residents. It has been decades since people of this and adjoining areas had sustainable peace. The law and order situation has been frail since the invasions and wars started off many years ago and generations have passed without an end to the misery. The latest in this story have been the internal displacements to enforce writ of the state, and in this particular case, writ of Pakistani state. Few years back it was Sawat and Buner where military operation had to be launched, this time it is North Waziristan, allegedly a safe heaven for terrorist for long time. The people are asked to vacate their houses and move to another safer place where camps are established to house them and provide them with necessary modalities of life. Being a far-flung area, education and health facilities are not sufficient in the first place, and such displacements destroy the existing social structure, stress coping skills and monetary savings of the people if they had any. By all means life never comes to the normal after such large-scale movements.

Dr. Asma Humayun has taken the camp initiative. She has been doing unprecedented things in practice and academics in Pakistan. The drugs selection and the preparation of data collection questionnaire were done through discussion on a very active group of psychiatrists, through social media. It is worth mentioning that no financial benefit was taken from any pharmaceutical company, with zero sponsorships and advertisements. The provincial government of KPK has recognized Dr. Asma's tireless efforts. Pakistan Army hosted the camp for visiting team of psychiatrists in the Khalifa Gul Nawaz Teaching Hospital Bannu. They also organized our stay in circuit house Bannu. It was 2nd in the series of camps for psychological help for IDPs, 1st one for myself. Psychiatrists from Islamabad and Peshawar were invited to participate in the camp. This camp was a particular success as over 170 patients were seen on one day. The information w1as spread on radio and banners in the area. People were informed about the arrival of expert psychiatrists and psychologists from Islamabad and Peshawar. Many of them showed up for consultation regarding their issues. Children in particular have been affected by the adversity in the worst manner.

Patients at Khalifa Gulnawaz Teaching Hospital presented with psychiatric problems that were precipitated or worsened by the displacement in addition to those which were pre-existing. It was a blessing that a child psychiatrist, Dr. Ambreen and a psychologist Miss Ruhi also accompanied the team. Children got specialist’s advice and prescription as did the adults. Psychiatrists from Peshawar made their presence felt and contributed in terms of exchange of ideas as well as handling major turn out of great number of patients in the limited time slot. 

Unfortunately the political thermometer in our country has gone up at a time when military operation is in full swing and displaced persons are left in vulnerable situation. The mainstream media has been busy covering sit-ins in Islamabad and a very little time has been devoted to the human tragedy taking place not far from the capital itself. Although the situation in the hospital where the camp was hosted looked good, we couldn’t actually visit the campsite so the exact situation couldn’t be seen.

Army is doing a great job in the war-hit area. By virtue of their presence as an organized and resourceful institution, they have handled the displaced people efficiently. Their treatment of civilians as we saw by the way a whistling lead car escorted us, however, needs some humanizing.

Overall, it was a fine two day break from the routine days at NUST. It was my first visit that deep in KPK, Bannu, discussed political and social issues with the team, passed by KUST, Kohat, bought some guavas from vendors by the roadside, took tea at roadside chhapper hotels, quite an impressive scenery all the way and a hospitable night stay at circuit house rest house locked from outside. The human side of the travel was priceless.