Only the second day after it opened, the first Women and Infant Friendly Space (WAIFS) bustled with activity and hummed with talking and laughter from women and children who live in Khairpur Civil Society camp in the south of Sukkur. Seated on comfortable mattresses with big traditional red roll pillows at their backs, women and girls in colourful traditional dresses filled the centre with a buzz of excitement.
At one end of the large tent room, women and girls sew clothes, while at the other lactating mothers breast feed their infants while their young children play with toys nearby. In other parts of the room women carefully listen to the health and hygiene sessions led by health staff. A doctor measures children’s upper arms with special tape to identify which ones are malnourished.
World Vision is the first organization in the flood response to set up a Women and Infant Friendly Space of such broad scope. In these spaces, women have a private, comfortable area in which to interact with other women, receive sessions on health, hygiene, and nutrition for themselves and their infants, learn skills such as sewing and embroidery, and breastfeed their children in private.
More than 250 women and children come to the WAIFS between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. every day. Every day, the numbers increase.
“Back home, I used to stay busy the whole day cooking food, taking care of livestock, working in the fields and in my extra time stitching clothes for some remuneration,” said 30-year-old Zubaida, who is nine months pregnant and comes to the World Vision centre. “I have too much free time and get bored in the tent here. When I heard that the centre had sewing machines from World Vision I thought it is my chance. I woke up early in the morning and went to the centre. I was so excited and happy about it; I stitched clothes today and helped seven girls with stitching and embroidery which I enjoy most.”
Although the need for food and other basic supplies remains huge, centres such as this play a vital role in helping women, children and communities recover from the flood.
“Such a place can help them begin to return to a bit more of a normal life and start the process of recovering from what has happened to them.” said Noureen Soloman Mirza, World Vision’s Health and Hygiene promoter.
To date, World Vision has reached over 380,262 flood affected people with medical care, tents, shelter kits, hygiene kits, food and other supplies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), Punjab and Sindh provinces. The organization has set up nine Child Friendly Spaces and one Women and Infant Friendly Space, and plans to open 20 of each.
World Vision has been working in Pakistan since 1992 primarily focusing on relief interventions, livelihood recovery and advocacy.