Social Mobilisation in IDP Camps in Pakistan

By Khadka, Shingha Bahadur | Forced Migration Review, February 2010 | Go to article overview

Social Mobilisation in IDP Camps in Pakistan

Khadka, Shingha Bahadur, Forced Migration Review

Community mobilisation and capacity building, where IDPs have been treated as actors rather than recipients, have contributed to improving the delivery and management of services.

Military operations in August 2008 in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) led to significant displacement of people. By late March 2009 over 13,000 families (more than 86,000 individuals) had been registered in eleven camps while some 70,000 families (420,000 individuals) were living with host families.

Kacha Gari, on the outskirts of Peshawar in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), was established as a camp for IDPs in October 2008, having previously been an Afghan refugee camp, and by March 2009 was housing some 2,600 families (over 15,500 individuals).

The NWFP Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees (CAR), supported by UNHCR, was responsible for camp management and administration. The Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster composed of UN agencies and implementing partners - both NGOs and government counterparts - ensured that basic services such as health, food, water, shelter, non-food items (NFIs) and protection were provided in the camps. UNHCR provided funds and technical support for camp coordination and social mobilisation and, as cluster lead agency, coordinated all service providers.

The jirga (council) system is fundamental to the Pashtun culture of the tribal people and was used effectively in the form of sectoral committees for social mobilisation in the camp. A Grand Shura was responsible for coordination of all sectoral committees in the camps. According to the local culture, mixed committees of men and women are not permitted, so separate men's and women's committees were formed for each sector. Kacha Gari camp had six different sectoral committees - including water management (86 men's committees/92 women's committees), education (3/63), health (3/89), protection (2/30), food (3/0) and security (3/0) - plus two grand shuras (men only). The participation of men is higher in those committees where men's interests are highest and similarly for the committees for issues where women's role is more significant, such as in education, health and awareness raising for protection of IDPs themselves, especially for women and children.

UNHCR and its partners focused on a community-based approach and a commitment to age, gender and diversity mainstreaming. Initially, this required capacity building and training for implementing partners, plus regular monitoring and provision of feedback. Capacity-building activities included training for sectoral committees and holding regular inter-sectoral committee meetings; a weekly camp coordination meeting and a monthly coordination meeting with all partners; a fortnightly meeting with sectoral committees; and a monthly meeting with the Grand Shura. Community participation has been instrumental in ensuring IDPs' ownership of the services and assistance.

Main challenges

The main challenges and potential obstacles to social mobilisation in the camps were:

* the diversity of the IDPs, in terms of factors such as their place of origin and their social, economic and political situation which was manifested in their levels of general awareness and interaction with outsiders and their willingness to be involved in groups and to work together

* previous friction among IDPs in their place of origin, which emerged as a major trigger for breakdown in social mobilisation and harmony in the camp

* restrictions on women: for cultural reasons, women's participation in groups and group meetings, interaction with men as well as male staff and even interaction of women with female staff without the permission of a male member of the family was at times not possible

* cultural aversion to the very idea of participation in such groups

* a sense among many IDPs that NGOs do not respect their culture, norms and customs

* difficulty in ensuring proper representation of the whole community in groups

* equity in the distribution of relief items: initially, more vulnerable persons could not easily access food and non-food items

* inadequate understanding among implementing partners of, and expertise in, IDP dynamics, aspects of social mobilisation and coordination with other actors

* the reluctance of IDPs to use communal facilities (especially kitchens, toilets and wash rooms) due to unfamiliarity with modern enclosed toilets and washrooms. …

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