At ten years of age, Rahat Khan has no memory of his home in remote Orakzai Agency, in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), before it was swept by insecurity. In 2009 when he was only a toddler, the family was forced to leave their village. They fled their home and settled for two years in Peshawar, the capital of neighbouring Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. In 2011 they were able to return to their village in Orakzai Agency but tragedy soon struck again. With the region’s fragile health services devastated by the fighting, Rahat’s father died after a short illness. The family was without a male head of the household – a crucial need in FATA’s heavily male-dominated society, where women are often barred from any public dealings.
Today, Rahat’s mother supports her four children, doing domestic labour for wealthier households. She is determined that her children should have a good education, and that Rahat should study medicine and raise himself out of poverty. Every month, she scrapes together 100 rupees (USD 0.80) to pay the fees for a small private school that lacks electricity or furniture, but she hopes will give Rahat a better education than the government school. For the rest, the family depends on whatever cash or food their equally impoverished extended family can spare.
“I have a good teacher, but there is no electricity in my school,” says Rahat. “It gets very dark inside the classrooms in winters. We need electricity so that we have light in our homes and places of learning.”
In February 2018, Rahat and his family were identified as eligible for a UNDP-supported aid package intended for vulnerable families that had been displaced by insecurity in FATA. Provided under the China South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund for the Recovery Project in FATA and Balochistan, it includes basic humanitarian assistance and household goods for 8,100 vulnerable families.
For women-headed families such as Rahat’s, obtaining essential goods such as blankets for the harsh winters, at reasonable prices, is almost impossible. As the oldest male in the family, therefore, Rahat escorted his mother to the Political Agent compound in Kalaya, the nearest small town. There, the family signed up for the much-needed aid package.
“We are very happy to receive this aid,” Rahat says. “Now we have blankets and food to help us get through winters.”
Under this south-south agreement, the People’s Republic of China has provided US$4 million to support vulnerable families and education in FATA and Pakistan’s Balochistan province. In addition to humanitarian assistance for 56,700 people in FATA, the project is funding the refurbishment of schools that were damaged by severe flooding in Balochistan during 2010–2011, benefiting 19,000 schoolchildren.
China South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund for the Recovery Project in FATA and Balochistan