I’m in Jalozai camp in northwest Pakistan. Built on a barren, dusty plain, it is a massive tent city with over 80,000 displaced persons. Residents of Jalozi have little or no access to employment. They are completely dependent on UN agencies and NGOs for food, water, and other essentials.
Plastic sheeting around ‘blocks’ of tents provide a minimal sense of privacy and security. Firewood is scarce and though winter is approaching, UNHCR has been unable to offer heavier, winterized tents. Many have been here for up to two years.
I met Ghulam Noor here, sitting on a metal bed frame in a dusty field, chatting with some friends. He’s 22, but already married with a four month old baby. He has been living in Jalozai for a year.
Last October, Ghulam Noor was in his village bazaar when a Pakistani helicopter gunship opened fire. He was hit by shrapnel in the leg and head and is now paralyzed from the waist down with minimal movement in his arms and hands. He says what he needs most is medical assistance. His father and family pooled money to pay for initial treatment, but he requires additional care for paralysis and the shrapnel still lodged in his head. Ghulam says he is depressed, can no longer work, and is completely dependent on the support of his family to survive.
For those like Ghulam who have to cope with a debilitating injury as a result of the conflict, life in Jalozai camp is especially difficult. There are no facilities for the disabled and little or no assistance is offered to such persons or their families despite the unique challenges they face. Talking to victims in Jalozai, a feeling of powerlessness and senselessness pervades their stories. For Ghulam, all he wants to do is walk again and can’t understand why the helicopter that paralyzed him opened fire. For others, all they want to do is return to their villages and rebuild. But no one knows how or when they will be able to move forward with their lives.