Situation Update: Food Security: Coping Mechanisms Place IDPs at Greater Risk

Situation Update: Food Security: Coping Mechanisms Place IDPs at Greater Risk



Families continue to flee from Khyber Agency to Peshawar. According to UNHCR, approximately 3,000 individuals arrive at Jalozai Camp every day, and as of May 15, the total individuals registered since January reached 232,390. Approximately 90% of the displaced population resides in host communities; however, UNHCR reports that in order to access aid 40-50 families are relocating the Jalozai Camp daily.

IDPs continue to face challenges in accessing humanitarian aid. Without registration, the families are ineligible to receive assistance, and many families do not register because they lack the required identification. Other factors prevent families from registering such as long queues and cultural practices. Even for the families that are registered to access humanitarian aid, the challenges remain vast.


IDP families adopt various coping mechanisms in order to meet basic needs. Unfortunately, the coping mechanisms in most cases do not enable them to fully meet their needs and often place the family in worse or more vulnerable conditions.

Some of the coping strategies include selling relief items for money that they use to purchase other needs, reducing the quantity and quality of consumed food, separation of family with women leading the household in host communities while the men work in other areas of Pakistan, and accepting employment based on cash advances which are essentially forms of debt bondage.

Registered families receive relief items at Jalozai Camp. However, many off-camp families cannot afford to transport the items; therefore, outside of Jalozai and the distribution point in Nowshera, makeshift markets have emerged where IDPs sell the relief items for cash. With cash they return and purchase items they need from the local markets where they reside. Families also reallocate the cash to meet a variety of needs aside from food. Doctor’s fees and medicines are commonly shared by IDPs as expensive and needed due to an increase in illnesses of children.

In order to compensate for their reduced cash, many families report drastic changes in their eating patterns. Hajj Bibi, 28 years old and residing in rented housing in Bader Kalay, shared that their extended family of 19 has reduced the quantity and quality of food for each meal. “We all take one chappati (Pakistani flat bread) which is insufficient. We cannot afford any sort of meat anymore.” She described that they consume wheat, tea, and vegetables, mostly potatoes. Milk is also reduced from their diets. Other families report similar situations, reducing the quantity at mealtime or reducing the frequency of meals from three to two times a day. Some families report only consuming wheat and tea, without milk and little or no sugar. Overall, the food intake is reduced in quantity and quality to levels which pose significant threat to health and nutrition.

In Pakistan women often lead households while their husbands earn income in other cities. IDP families report that income prior to displacement included the husband’s salary and support from the wife working on agricultural land, which provided the household access to milk, meat, and vegetables. However, for displaced families who adopt this mechanism, the burden placed on women and children intensifies. Because they are not accustomed to go in public places and particularly where men are, women often do not go to distribution points to collect relief items and do not go out to purchase or access food, water, and other necessities. Shahida, 28 year old mother of three children, arrived with her brother-in-law’s family in April 2011. Living in Peshawar while her husband works in Karachi, Shahida faces problems without sufficient money and without access to the milk, eggs, and meat that she had in Bara District, Khyber Agency. She compared the changed living standard, “We lived in our own six bedroom house that we shared with my brother-in-law’s family. The house had a lot of open space. Now, we live in a four bedroom house that is shared among four families, without any latrine, water, or electricity.” Because families lost access to livestock and agricultural land, they have also lost access to food and nutrition which is not compensated for in their new living conditions.

Debt bondage, although illegal in Pakistan, exists throughout the country in factories and in the agricultural sector mainly affecting minority and extremely poor communities in Sindh and Punjab. Some IDP families (names withheld to protect their identities) are also now being exploited in Peshawar by owners of brick kilns and other factories. Arriving in Peshawar in need of food and money, the advanced salary ranging between 10,000-20,000 rupees (USD 111-222) appealed to the IDPs. In exchange for work, they had access to money to meet their families’ immediate needs and specifically for securing rented housing. The terms of the labor contract, however, were not clear to the IDPs. When they started working and received their wages, they received 150 rupees (USD 1.67) per day as compared to the standard daily wage rate of 300-350 rupees (USD 3.33-3.90) per day. Now, they are stuck in employment with an income upon which they cannot support their families, and because of the debt, they cannot quit without repaying the advance. Without sufficient income, affording food and other necessities is out of reach for these families.

Overall, the IDPs are surviving on a bare minimum amount of food, which is reducing their health status and poses threats of malnutrition. The elderly, the infirm, and women and children are the most vulnerable from these groups. Reduced nutrition status will most rapidly affect the youngest and oldest IDPs and those already in poor health. Women face additional risk because of the limitations on mobility they have and cultural practices that place their food intake needs below those of other male family members. IDP families will continue to adopt coping mechanisms in order to survive even if it creates additional risks. However, the humanitarian community has the capacity to address these needs so that families can meet their food requirement without further compromising their health and financial positions. CWS-P/A has plans to address food security and other needs of IDPs in host communities and seeks international support to make these initiatives possible.

CWS-P/A Response:

CWS-P/A is participating in coordination and cluster meetings. It continues to monitor the situation, has visited and assessed the affected areas, and is in contact with local implementing partners.

CWS-P/A procured 1,000 food packages that will benefit 8,400 individuals in Nowshera and Peshawar. These food packages that are made available with support from DanChurchAid will provide the families with sufficient food and calorie, fat, and protein intake for one month as per Sphere standards. The distribution of these food packages will take place as soon as possible.

CWS-P/A is procuring an additional 2,000 food package to benefit 16,800 individuals. These food packages meet Sphere standards and are made possible with support from Canadian Foodgrains Bank. The support and distribution of food packages for the same families is planned for the next two consecutive months as well.

CWS-P/A will be part of the joint ACT Appeal that will be launched shortly.

Immediate Needs:

  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Health services and medicines, particularly mobile services for IDPs in host communities and vaccination campaigns to prevent the spread of diseases
  • Non-food items to assist families to relocated without household and other basic belongings, including hygiene items
  • Nutrition initiatives to locate and treat undernourished children and pregnant and lactating women
  • In-depth and coordinated efforts to locate vulnerable, unregistered families
  • Access to cash and income earning opportunties


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