Making the best of relief goods

UN humanitarian organisationsPESHAWAR: Internally displaced persons (IDPs) sheltering in the tented Jalozai camp have begun selling edibles and non-food items provided to them by UN humanitarian organisations and aid agencies.

Relief goods like grains, sugar, biscuits, tea, edible ghee, blankets, utensils, pulses, notebooks, soap and stoves brought by IDPs to a roadside bazaar are found displayed in over two dozen mud shops with straw roofs and wooden pillars.Displaced persons told Media that many of them sell these things because they have no money for their “more pressing needs”.Sher Zaman, of Khyber Agency, said IDPs usually sold those relief items they found “not absolutely necessary” for them and used the money to spend on items and services they needed most. Majority of the displaced persons live in abject poverty and buy sugar, wheat flour and black tea by selling rice.

However, not all sellers of relief goods use money to purchase items of necessity.Some sell items beyond their needs to see doctors or other purposes.“I need money to take my elder brother to a specialist doctor in Peshawar for typhoid treatment,” said Hayat Khan, a youth displaced from Bajaur Agency, while pushing a wheelbarrow with a 50kg rice sack, marked “USAID” in red and blue.Mr Hayat said the sack would sell for Rs1,400 and the money would be spent on his brother`s treatment and buying salt, sugar, tea and chilly powder for the family.Shopkeeper Johar Ali, of Mohmand Agency, favoured the sale of unnecessary relief goods by IDPs.

“There is nothing illegal in it. Displaced persons sell the items not needed by them and those wanting them emerge as their buyers,” he said.A senior manager of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority supervising the Jalozai Camp also held the same opinion.“We can`t stop them (displaced persons). Once goods are distributed, they become legitimate owners of the goods with rights to consume them or sell them,” said the PDMA official responsible for the Jalozai camp.He said the authorities ignored presence of shops selling IDPs` goods. “We just don`t want to add to their misery.”

According to shopkeeper Johar, he sells the World Food Program labelled packs of tea, pulses, biscuits, edible oil supplied by UNHCR, woolen blankets and utensils purchased from IDPs. He said he sold a cooking pot at Rs300 at a profit of Rs20 to Rs30.Samar Taj, another shopkeeper, said usually, people living in the nearby villages bought most of relief items.“Villagers can`t afford to buy imported biscuits for their children so they come to us and buy cookies.”Once a displaced person himself, Mr Samar sent his family back to his village in Mohmand Agency six months ago but chose to stay put to run this small business at Jalozai camp.He said he couldn`t return unless he had a stable source of income in his village. “Here I earn Rs150 daily and can feed my family so what will I do by returning home in absence of employment opportunities?”

He was happy with his business despite earning fluctuations.“There are times when your daily sales stand at Rs500 or even Rs1,000, but then you have to bear situations as bad as selling nothing the whole day,” said Mr Ali taking a sip of green tea on a wooden bench.Meanwhile, Akhtar Mohammad, an IDP from Khyber Agency, said once he went to Peshawar to work as a daily wager but police at a checkpost took me into custody and left him after questioning me for two hours.Displaced person Sher Zaman said lack of income generating opportunities forced IDPs into disposing of the edibles that they didn`t eat like French fries, biscuits and wafers.“Our children don`t eat French fries but they do like to eat potatoes, which we can`t afford to buy as most of us don`t have money. Therefore, we sell these French fries,” he said. – Dawn