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Humanitarian Crisis In Kashmir

By Bilal Hussain

24 July, 2010

International Aid Organization’s slow response concerns experts

SRINAGAR, July 23: The current humanitarian crisis in the valley has raised many eyebrows over the sluggish response of international humanitarian organization in Kashmir; experts have started questioning about their workings.

There are few global humanitarian aid organizations operating in Kashmir: Actionaid International, Médecins Sans Frontières [MSF], Handicap International [HI], Save The Children [STC], International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC] to name a few. “Most of these organizations have been doing (if at all) little from past four weeks of siege in the valley to reach out to the people and provide them with necessary aid,” said a humanitarian worker.

Professor at University of Kashmir, Bashir Ahmad Dabla told Kashmir Times earlier that when people and children in particular are not getting first aid and medicines that is starting point for humanitarian crisis. It has already started here. “Patient doesn’t have access to the medicines. There are reports that in hospitals stocks have got exhausted,” laments Prof Dabla. Kashmir badly needs humanitarian aid in these tough times, he appeals “International humanitarian organization should step in without any delay and provide the much needed aid”.

While citing a mandate of Médecins Sans Frontières an expert in the field said that MSF provides assistances to population in distress, to victims of natural or man-made disasters, to victims of armed conflict, which is their global mandate. “They have been providing psycho social assistance to victims here. People need them most now,” an expert suggests.

Giving an overview of MSF’s operations in Kashmir Sasha Matthews, Project Coordinator MSF said, “Over 20 years of conflict have affected the population of Kashmir. In 2001 MSF intervened and started operations in the valley since then we have been providing mental health support to the affected populace. We work in the government run hospitals and do have our own setups as well.”

“MFS is concerned about the prevalent situation here and has initiated the internal assessments of the condition to see to what extent the MSF can intervene. So far, we have approached local community, medicos, hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies to have their inputs,” Matthews added.

Meanwhile, Actionaid International has been working here in the Valley from past many years. “They too are missing on the ground in the present crisis,” said an expert. “We don’t work directly in emergencies more of our work is based on providing psycho-social care to the affected families here. Except Srinagar, we work in six districts of Kashmir. We don’t work directly here but through partner local organizations. So far we have done nothing in the present situation. At present we are only collecting data,” said Shoiab Afara, Project Manager, Actionaid International in Kashmir.

Likewise, Handicap International has been working in India since 1988 and from past year started their operation in Kashmir as well, too seems to have limited their work during normal situations in the state. One of their mandates is to help people with disabilities to access decent employment and therefore improve their social status and economic situation. “How many of disabled people of Kashmir due to ongoing armed conflict have HI provided aid or either provided employment?” Experts ask.

Hundreds of youth have received multiple injuries in the on going protest and many among them are disabled now. “None among the HI team have so far visited any of disabled youth either at hospitals or even have gone to their home,” he claims. Despite several attempts, HI team couldn’t be contacted for their comments.

Another international organization, Save The Children, which works in conflict and disasters situations around globe focusing on children believes that children are the most vulnerable to abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence following an emergency. Save the Children has a dedicated team as part of Child protection in Emergency (CPiE) and they respond to all major emergencies in India, “what about Kashmir? What have they done so far for Kashmiri children here from past over four weeks? Experts here ask. To this STC Project Head Kashmir Sharief said that they are working in more than 100 villages in the valley. “We will be soon focusing our work to downtown area as well,” he adds. With regard to the current crises Sharief said that STC would soon evaluate situation.

Likewise International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC] whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict. “ICRC delegates ensure that medical services or food aid are provided according to needs to detainees, especially vulnerable groups of civilians or the general population, including in occupied territories,” their website ,mentions. Experts here demand active role of ICRC as over hundreds of detainees from past few weeks are denied food and medicines in the police stations.

Appreciating the recent allocation of two million Euros ($2.52 million) by European Union (EU) in humanitarian aid for the people affected by the present situation in Jammu and Kashmir, their role doesn’t end here only, an expert believes. “EU should stress more on monitoring in J&K and should ensure that funds be utilized in the programs that should benefit deserving most rather than paying hefty sums to staff and spending heavily on administrations,” an expert suggested.

Pertinently, marketplaces in the Valley witnessed some business for about two and half day since June 25, 2010. Most of the markets remained closed in protest against killings of at least 17 youths, mostly teenagers and injuries to hundreds of civilians in Kashmir. Pertinently, state government also brought in the army to help them to calm the situation.

Locals here say they are facing shortage of critical commodities including medicines. The situation here calls for international humanitarian organization to step in, provide the much need support to ease out commoner in Kashmir, humanitarians here believe. The siege badly affected the imports to the Valley. "On an average over 100 trucks daily come to the Valley with vegetables and fruits," said a local transporter, it is “a crisis situation for Kashmir” now. Besides a severe shortage of stocked food items like rice, flour, pulses, sugar, and many other commodities residents are having a tough time in procuring daily items like milk, bread, and vegetables.