Afghan Refugees in Pakistan
In the summer of 1983, Mr. Azadzoi travelled to Pakistan to
document the Afghan refugee camps and settlements in
Pakistan. This work involved survey and documentation of
several refugee camps in the North-West Frontier Provices
of Pakistan during a two months period. The result was
published as a Thesis project in the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology (MIT) in 1984,
Influx of refugees bagan as a few hundreds in April 1978
when the government of Daud Khan was overthrown by
Communist parties in a coup. By the end of 1978, there
were over 25,000 refugees in camps. By the end of 1979
there were almost half a million refugees and by the end of
1980 it was estimated to be over a million refugees and
during the summer of 1983 there were 2,820,500 refugees
in Pakistan. This was recorded as the largest concentration
of refugees in the history of mankind.
Patterns of Settlements:
Refugees came by the thousands every week
and month and settled in camps in the outskirts
of the major cities of NWFP of Pakistan and
Baluchistan. There were 360 registered
camps by the United Nations (UN) in 1982.
These camps were located far away from
urban centers in desert lands and valleys.
Most of the camps were isolated,
inaccessible, and without any prior planning
and program. A refugee camp population
ranged from a few hundred refugees to over
150,000 refugess per camp. Most of these
refugee camps were over-crowded. Some
camps were on hill tops and valleys but most
were on flat lands.
The basic form of a shelter for a refugee
family was a tent. Every refugee family was
given a tent by the United Nation High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) upon
their arrival. As time past, the refugee family
built a low mud walls at the premiter base of
the tent (see sketches to the left). These walls
were gradually raised higher and an entry
opening was provided. Eventually, the tent
was replaced with a roof made of poplar
poles, hay, and mud. This formed a basic mud
hut and served as a room for multi-porpose
living, sleeping, and daily entertainment.
Provision of potable for millions of refuges
was one the major challenges to UNHCR and
the host country. Most of these camps had no
source of potable water. The UN supplied
water in four methods: a) emergency
distribution of water by mobile tankers. b)
digging shallow wells where underground
water was available at low level. and c)
digging and provided deep wells and d)
provision of water tanks at various locations
in the refugee camps.
Keeping a sanitary condition for human
habitation was another challenge for the
UNHCR and other involved International
communities. For the thousands of refugees
overcrowded in these camps, there was no
provision for the disposal of garbage and
human waste. Open sewers and piled
garbages and wastes in the refugee camps
threatened the health and safety of the
refugees. Refugees built their traditional
pit-latrines and several family refugees shared
one latrines but the waste was disposed to
the public areas. Open drains contaminated
the air and the underground water sources.
No refuse collection existed in 1982.
Women and children comprised a significant
portion of refugee popolation in the camps.
Diet was limited in quantity and in quality.
Defficiency of vitamin and nutrition and water
polution and poor sanitary condition
contributed to high rise of mortality among
women and children. High humidity and high
temperature also contribution to worsen health
condition. The UN and International community
and local government responded the problem
by provided emergency mobile units. Later,
some stationery dispensaries were put in
service. Usually, large tarpaulins made up as
visiting centers and clinics.
The number of school age children was the
highest among the refugee population. Figures
indicated that almost 50% of the refugee
population was school age childrend (1.4
million). Large tents and tarpaulins were given
to refugee leaders to be used as classrooms.
Some sent their children to local mosques and
madrasas to learn religous lessons. Later,
refugees built their schools with traditional
mud wall structures with the help of
volunteers and government and
Afghan refugees were devout muslims and
most prayed five times a day. They built their
own mosques as soon as they settled in
these refugee camps. No agency helped them
with the provison of a building or construction
of a mosque. Traditional method of
construction and use of locally available
building material along with community
participation and contribution from the
refugees help building these mosques.
Shops and Marketplaces:
Rafugees camps were located far from the
urban centers and local bazaars. Some
refugees began opening shops and
convenient stores to sell products such as
vegetable, fruits, matches, and cigarettes.
Later, other skilled refugees opened shops
such as pottery making, woodworking,
cobbling, and other crafts. Women refugees
opened their carpetmaking, feltmaking, and
embroidery inside their compounds and the
men sold the products in local markets.
The UNHCR, WFP, WHO, UNICEF, ILO, and the
World Bank with assistance from the local
government were mainly invovled in providing
food amd water, temporary shelter (tents),
emergency and preventive health care,
storage, transportation, and some police
protection. Later, they focussed on providing
income-generating pilot projects, veterinary,
reafforestation, and relocation schemes.
Some NGOs proposed construction of
embergency shelters in the form of pre-fab
concrete units (right photos) but failed to
convence the refugees and the local autorities
to adapt the option.
NASIR BAGH REFUGEE CAMP, PESHAWAR
CAMP ESTABLISHED IN 1979
CAMP IN 1983, POPULATION 42,000
TRANSFORMATION OF A TENT INTO A MUD HUT
FLOOR PLAN AND SECTIONS OF A HOUSE
BUILT BY A REFUGEE FAMILY, JUNE 1983
FLOOR PLAN AND SECTION OF A SCHOOL
BUILDING BUILT BY THE REFUGEES, 1983
TENT CITIES OF REFUGEE CAMPS TRANSFOMED INTO TRADITIONAL
RESIDENTIAL QUARTERS WITH TINY ALLEYS AND PATHWAYS
TENTS GIVEN TO REFUGEES AS TEMPORARY SHELTER
TRANSFORMED INTO PERMANENT DWELLINGS
REFUGEES DUG THEIR OWN WATER
WELLS, WOMEN FITCHED WATER FROM
DISTANCES. RELIEF WORK PROVIDED
SOME MATERIAL FOR THE WELLS
SANITATION AND DISPOSAL OF WASTE MATERIAL AND HUMAN WASTE
WAS ONE OF THE MAJOR CHALLENGES IN THE REGUGEE CAMPS.
LARGE TENTS AND TARPAULINS WERE PROVIDED BY THE RELIEF WORK
TO BE USED AS CLINICS, HOSPITALS, AND HEALTH CARE CENTERS.
WOMEN AND CHILDREN CONSTITUTED THE LARGES NUMBER OF
PATIENTS IN THE REFUGEE CAMPS.
INITIALLY TARPAULINS WERE GIVEN TO BE USED AS SCHOOLS,
LATER, REFUGEES BUILT THEIR OWN SCHOOL BUILDINGS.
REFUGEES BEGAN BUILDING THEIR OWN BUILDINGS, SCHOOLS,
MOSQUES HOMES, AND SHOPS. USED THEIR TRADITIONAL METHOD
OF CONSTRUCTION AND LOCALLY AVAILABLE MATERIALS
REFUGEES BAGAN MAKING
HANDCRAFTS AND SOLD IT IN
THE LOCAL MARKET. THEY
ALSO BROUGHT BUILDING
MATERIALS, WOOD, STONE,
AND MAD MUD BRICKS AND
OPENED MARKET PLACES
WITHIN THE REFUGEE CAMPS.
THEY TURNED INTO REAL
GEODESTIC DOME PROJECT TO BE USED AS TEMPORARY SHELTER