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Sports for IDPs


Sports for IDPs

Through sports, children and youth become sensitive to others' needs and values, learn to handle exclusion, manage their emotions and learn self control.

In the scorching heat, children, females and elders were standing in long queues waiting to receive aid items sent by various organisations and philanthropists - a usual scene at the relief camps of Kacha Gari, Jalozai, Benazir and Sheikh Shahzad at Peshawar, Swabi, Mardan, Nowshehra and Risalpur districts.

IDPs in Pakistan
There are more than 1.3 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the relief camps. These are mainly children, youth and women traumatised by the ongoing conflict between the Taliban and the armed forces in FATA (the Federally Administered Tribal Areas) and other areas of NWFP (the north west frontier province of Pakistan).

Basic needs vs psychosocial needs
The main focus of any early emergency intervention in a conflict or disaster relief is to offer food, shelter, clothing, medical aid and family re-unification. In the early stages of an emergency, when the assessment of response needs are being identified, the quick re-establishment of simple cultural activities like sports, play areas and religious practices in the affected community can make a significant contribution to stabilising the situation.

Sport as a psychosocial tool in Pakistan
Since 1982 the situation has changed rapidly and much research has been conducted on using sport as an affective tool in addressing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sport has a crucial role in the optimal growth, learning and development of children. It addresses the child development at physical, cognitive, emotional and social levels that is required in our complex society marked by the effects of stress and fear.

Values and skills through sport
Through sports, children and youth can become sensitive to others' needs and values, learn to handle exclusion and dominance, manage their emotions, and learn self control, share power, space and ideas with others. Psychologists believe that play is also necessary for assisting children to overcome emotional trauma.

Political will

The NWFP government has taken the initiative, under the livelihood development project in FATA, to establish a sports program and use sports as a tool for education and social development. However, the implementing body must remember the complexity of the subject as it is not a usual sport programme to attract media and donor attention without a sustainable outcome.

The FATA sport department may or may not have the capacity and expertise to carry out this enormous task in a given security situation. Yet it would not be difficult to test a pilot sport program for the IDPs of Swat, Buner and Dir districts, learn from its outcome, refine it, and then proceed further.

In the absence of formal school structure in the relief camps, sports, recreation and play can provide a way to educate children during and after the conflict, helping youth to heal and make a new start in life. This activity would help in rehabilitation and help reintegration into society and develop community spirit.

The writer is a qualified IOC Coach

[This article has been edited by the Operating Team]


Article type



Aamir Bilal


Tuesday, June 2, 2009 - 23:00



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