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Pak: Internally displaced people at high risk of mental illness, say experts

Sep 11, 2012

Among other challenges, psychologists and aid workers in Pakistan believe that the internally displaced people are at high risk of mental illness because of the stress of migration and exposure to violence.

For the first few months, Anayata Bibi, a 35-year-old widow who fled fighting in the northwestern tribal region of Pakistan to live in the Jalozai refugee camp 35km southeast of Peshawar, barely spoke to anyone, and would not leave her tent. In bouts of anger, she would hit her four children.

"I wept through the journey from my village to Jalozai. I never wanted to leave my home. I thought I would go back in 20 days. It has now been a year," she said, sitting in the courtyard of a makeshift tent compound.

Bibi is one of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Pakistanis who have fled fighting between insurgent groups and the Pakistan military in the Khyber Agency bordering Afghanistan.

The diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, says the World Health Organization (WHO) in a recent report, remains an unmet health priority at Jalozai. Anayata was diagnosed with acute anxiety and depression three months ago by psychologists visiting Jalozai.

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