Women and children have been facing the brunt of violence and acts of terrorism committed by security and forces and terrorists in tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border. The women and children have been running with tears in their eyes to save themselves. According to a rough estimate thousands of women and children either been killed or maimed during the fighting. Thousands have been living in the camps waiting for a savoir.
According to a newspaper comment, the battle for Swat is taking longer than expected. A month ago we were told that it was all over bar the shouting, that there were just 'pockets of resistance' and it would 'soon' be safe for the IDPs to return to their homes. Some have, but the majority have not and they remain marooned in the camps and schools and private homes. There is still no date for their return apart from a vague suggestion that it will be 'this month.' As the battle for Swat grinds on, the battle for Waziristan is slowly gathering pace and that will produce its own fresh crop of IDPs. Resources are stretched dreadfully thin, the aid agencies are struggling and running out of food and money; and the monsoon fast approaches. In the midst of all this misery life goes on – indeed new life in the form of babies is a daily occurrence for the IDP communities.
There are about 35,000 pregnant women who will give birth within the next seven months among the 3.5 million displaced. The majority of them have previously lived their lives in the seclusion of purdah. Despite multiple pregnancies and births many of them have never received medical attention during pregnancy nor given birth anywhere other than in their own homes. Giving birth in a tent is not an option anybody would choose, and pregnant women in droves are now attending the mother-and-child centres set up in the camps; paradoxically benefiting from their misfortune. Treatment is free at point of need, more babies are being delivered safely, mothers are being correctly advised about vaccination, and the M+C centres are close to their patients. This (relatively) bright spot must be balanced against health workers reporting that women are chronically depressed, fearful, experiencing difficulty with lactation, have a high incidence of urinary infections and many are malnourished. As military operations continue to deny them a return the plight of this group can only worsen, as will the pressure on the medical services that already are barely able to cope. They will eventually return to lands ravaged by war. Even more sadly, the basic services they can avail now are unlikely to be available on their return home; and women remain the eternal losers in the battles fought by men.