MAG-trained staff give a participatory 'risk education' session to schoolchildren.
MAG is training Pakistani non-governmental organisation Sustainable Peace And Development Organisation (SPADO) to help protect vulnerable people in conflict-affected areas.
In 2009, fleeing fighting and insecurity in South Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), nearly half a million people began to move to temporary homes in the nearby Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as North West Frontier Province).
These people will be exposed to significant risk from landmines and other remnants of conflict – the legacy of previous conflicts as well as the most recent bout of hostilities – when they return to their places of origin and attempt to rebuild their homes and livelihoods.
“Their situation is desperate,” says Hafeez Ullah, from Dera Ismail Khan which, along with Tank, is one of the districts where MAG and SPADO partnered to provide Mine Risk Education (MRE) – reaching out to internally displaced people (IDPs) with messages about how to keep themselves safe.
MRE instructor Aziz Shamal (to the left in white), trained by MAG in May 2010, adopts a participatory approach to risk education with schoolboys in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Ullah is MRE Project Coordinator for SPADO and has seen first-hand the problems faced by IDPs, as the organisation has been active for many years in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA.
He and his team of around a dozen highly committed individuals speak to about two thousand people every week, in groups including schoolchildren, women, tribal elders, students, members of the business community – in short, just about everyone.
“These people need MRE before they go back,” he says.
“The need in the tribal areas for Mine Risk Education is greater than other parts of the country,” adds Raza Shah Khan, SPADO Director and a native of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “These places have far more contamination. The accident rates are very high, and were even before the fighting last year.”
In the 15 months preceding April, the International Committee of the Red Cross alone counted 166 verified victims of landmines or unexploded ordnance (UXO) – excluding the casualties of direct armed violence itself – in Pakistan. This gruesome total ranks high compared to many other conflict-afflicted parts of the world.
MAG’s role involves the training of SPADO field staff in Islamabad, where MAG Community Liaison Manager Christine Murphy passes on the skills and approaches she has accumulated during 20 years of MRE experience. “They have really come on since the training. Their approach is participatory now more than it was before. You can see it.”
Together, MAG and SPADO have developed new MRE materials; previous leaflets, posters and banners could not be seen from the back of an audience, for example, or were reliant too much on text for audiences with illiteracy rates approaching 80 per cent in places.
The two organisations plan to expand to help people who have fled new fighting in other parts of FATA. The need for MRE exceeds the capacity to deliver it. New conflict areas have generated new displacements since the start of this year. And as people return back home, the requirement will change from emergency MRE to a more community-based focus. This will see key community members trained by SPADO to deliver MRE training within their own communities.
MAG’s approach in Pakistan, that of providing international quality support to a locally established agency, is working well. However, Mine Action and Armed Violence Reduction are new sectors to the aid community in Pakistan, and the need for both is great. MAG and its partners are poised to assist as soon as opportunities arise.
Reporting and photos by Stephen Pritchard, Project Manager, MAG Pakistan
15 July 2010
MAG ’s operations in Pakistan are funded by ECHO (European Commission Humanitarian Aid).