Duniya’s Story, Pakistan


Duniya Aslam Khan with Afghan refugee mine workers in Malgagai Refugee Village in Pakistan’s south-western province Balochistan ©Alixandra Fazzina / NOOR

After finishing her Master’s degree in communications, Duniya initially began working as a staff reporter for a local English daily newspaper. But after less than a year, she realised that she wanted to do more than writing. At the urging of a friend, Duniya applied for a position as a Public Information Assistant with UNHCR in Quetta, Balochistan, in south-west Pakistan. Now, nine years into the job, she has been to the most remote corners of the country to meet people displaced by disasters and conflicts.

“Every day I go home, I thank God for giving me the opportunity to help others.” Duniya’s work involves telling the stories of displaced people to the world and briefing the media about the latest happenings. She visits refugee camps and villages, spending hours with refugees and displaced people. She feels that the most rewarding part is to see people benefiting from UNHCR’s assistance.

“It is also always heart-warming to see people offering help when they read my stories about refugees or internally displaced people. I feel honoured when given the opportunity to speak about the needs of people and more so when those needs get addressed.”

But the work can be professionally and personally challenging. In Pakistan, the unpredictable security situation sometimes restricts Duniya’s ability to travel. She lost three colleagues in terror incidents in 2009, while another colleague—her supervisor—was abducted and held hostage for three months in the same year.

While Duniya was proactively involved in efforts to secure her colleague’s release, her mother was undergoing major surgery in another city.

“Because of the intensity of my work, I was unable to join her in person at a time when she most needed me. During another emergency in 2008, when we were rushing relief supplies to earthquake-affected people in Balochistan, my mother was also hospitalized. From the office, I would go straight to the hospital late in the evening, come back home at 5:00 a.m. to prepare breakfast for my mom, and leave for the office at 7:30 a.m. Work and family balance is something humanitarians can’t maintain. While helping others, you have little time to spend with your family.”

1 family torn apart by war is too many

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