As a child, Zia-ul-Haq (34) contracted polio. In his remote village of Chota Bizote in Orakzai Agency of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), high quality medical care was difficult to access. Although he survived the terrible disease, Zia’s legs were paralysed. Nevertheless, he was determined not to let his disability come in a way of leading a fulfilling life. He married and soon became a proud father.

In 2009, fighting between militants and security forces reached Orakzai Agency. Families fled their homes, seeking security and a means to keep earning livelihoods elsewhere in Pakistan. Zia’s disability made it even harder for him to find ways of getting by and supporting his young family.

Thanks to his indomitable spirit, however, Zia soon found work, learning to ride a small “loader” bicycle to transport cargo short distances in Peshawar, the nearest large city. Finally, in 2010, he returned to Chota Bizote, hoping that he could use this skill to earn a living.

With four children under the age of 10, Zia was constantly on the look out for cargo transport jobs. But insecurity had devastated livelihoods in FATA, leaving few opportunities in a sparsely populated area where distances are substantial and infrastructure poor. Food was expensive and hard to come by, and even accessing the nearest market, Kalaya Bazaar, was difficult due to poor roads and perceived security threats.

With a relief package provided by UNDP in partnership with the Government of China, however, Zia and his family have been able to get through the winter months. This package, provided to vulnerable families returning home to FATA after their temporary displacement, includes essential household goods such as blankets and cooking pots, both of which are exorbitantly expensive or simply unavailable in Kalaya Bazaar.

“It is very hard to earn good money in the Agency. I can barely make ends meet,” says Zia. “I am very thankful to the Government of China and UNDP for reaching out to us. I am especially thankful for the blankets. They will keep my children warm during these harsh winter months.”

In 2018, the United Nations Development Programme and the Government of China initiated a unique south-south cooperation, the US$ 4 million China South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund for the Recovery Project in FATA and Balochistan. Under this project, relief packages are provided to 8,100 FATA families (56,700 people) who are returning home to areas that have been declared secure. The project is also funding the refurbishment of schools that were damaged by the 2010–2011 flooding in Balochistan, benefiting 19,000 school children in 375 schools.

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