Nearly 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees live in Pakistan. These are people who have left their lives in Afghanistan to seek safety and security in Pakistan. Over the years, these Afghans have settled all over Pakistan; Many of them have set up businesses and built a life for themselves here. According to the most recent UNHCR statistics, nearly 68% of registered refugees, live in urban areas; whereas refugee villages hold 32% of the refugee population.
To help the refugee community within Pakistan, it is important to understand the areas in which we are lacking. Studies have shown that host communities play a great part in the resettlement of refugees. There are many ways that Pakistani citizens can play their role in helping the integration and acculturation of Afghan refugees.
PAYF Team Visits Refugee Village
A recent trip by the PAYF team, to one such refugee village proved to be a rather enlightening experience. While the people were living their lives, certain aspects of the community were in stark contrast to the environment. The village is located right behind the NUST campus. The very first thing that one notices, is that in spite of being in a very central location, there is an absence of infrastructure to access the settlement.
The village is seemingly well-facilitated. There’s a mosque, a small school, a clinic, and a few shops in the center. The school piqued our interest. We found the children very eager to learn new things, but they could only communicate with us in Pashto. This was yet another barrier that could hold the potential of creating a feeling of isolation amongst the community. The children interacted freely and confidently, which suggested they had been given significant exposure.
Initiatives to ensure access to educational and economic opportunities, need to be undertaken to help improve standards of living. Furthermore, ensuring capacity-building initiatives within these communities will help in reducing the economic burden and security threats that policymakers assume them to be.
Additionally, even though the facilities are available, the lack of governance and monitoring of these initiatives has resulted in a decline of service-provision mechanisms. For instance, while there is a clinic in the village, they are unable to provide complete healthcare services. In fact, in most cases, the service providers will refer patients to other places for the most common illnesses. No additional.
Hence, even with the availability of infrastructure, it remains under-utilized. Moreover, further issues raised were the availability of clean water, lack of attention, resources, and transparency from the authorities.
The very first suggestion is to create a unified platform to address the needs of these people, aside from the realm of humanitarian assistance and governance. A platform dedicated entirely to integrating and acculturing refugees to their current environment. The process of acculturation should not be too difficult as there are no drastic differences between Pakistani and Afghan culture. However, these people should be allowed to access economic and educational opportunities, and a large contributing factor in that is language. Hence organizing language workshops should help enable people from these villages to interact with their surroundings.
Thus far, Pakistan has provided a wide majority of the refugees with opportunities to build a better life for themselves. However, efforts should be made to include the percentage of people that are unable to participate in our society, due to small differences.
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