Pak Affairs

Six months on, flood-displaced Pakistanis still waiting for help

RAMLI KHOSO, PAKISTAN: Six months after Pakistan’s epic floods demolished hundreds of farming villages, tens of thousands of displaced residents still live in limbo out in the open. Let down by their deeply unpopular government, and too poor to rebuild their mud brick homes, villagers can only pray the next monsoon season in July won’t bring more upheaval.

“We have not received anything. I am a widow. We are lying here in the cold. Everyone is falling sick because of the cold. We have no home, no crockery, no rations, nothing,” complained an elderly woman sitting outside a tattered tent in Ramli Khosa village in Sindh province. Monsoon floods began roaring through Pakistan in July late last year, leaving 10 million people homeless.

Many communities in Sindh are still surrounded by floodwaters and hundreds of thousands of people still live in temporary shelters, even though more than $1 billion in aid has been delivered to the country. In Ramli Khosa, about 1,500 people reside in rows of bare tents donated by Arab and Western aid groups.

They have to travel about a kilometer to fetch water, a situation that is common in many parts of the hardest hit Sindh province in the south. Flood victims say they have been largely forgotten… both at home and abroad.

Many toil over bricks that remain from their flattened homes, attempting to glue them together with a mixture of sand and cement as they try to rebuild their dwellings and their lives. “We have just received some flour and some grains; a small quantity of pulses, rice, oil and sugar, but nothing else. We have not received any money except what we got on the Watan Card. Nothing else,” said flood victim Nawab Jan, an elderly woman with a large lesion on her lower lip.

Jan said she has no money to seek medical help for her sore lip. Food prices remain unbearably high after floods destroyed crops and cut supplies, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. Farmers say it could be years before they are able to plant again. To survive, some work as labourers, earning about a dollar a day.

Pakistan’s government has been preoccupied by political crises and a host of other problems, from power outages to a stubborn Taliban insurgency. Even if it decides to step up efforts to help millions of flood victims, who sunk deeper into poverty after the catastrophe, they say generating enough funds will be difficult.

The ripple affects of the floods are felt most acutely in Sindh, Pakistan’s poorest province. In some villages, Pakistan Red Crescent volunteers arrive with trucks loaded with sacks of flour as dozens of people line up for help. It may temporarily ease suffering, but people want long-term relief.

“While its unlikely that the next monsoon rains will be in the level that we’ve just seen last year, its a worry when people at this very vulnerable state — meaning when they are returning home to very little in the way of shelter, either their homes are completely gone, or they are just a few walls, or the roofs are missing — that leaves people in a very vulnerable state indeed,” said Red Cross spokesperson, Penny Sims.

“And also without their livelihood, with their farmland having been completely swamped by water, it makes it very difficult for people to have the level of resilience they may have previously had,” she added.

Raja, a 6th grade student said he still remembered having to leave his home. “Our huts were just swept away. I still remember the sound of the water, especially in my sleep,” Raja said.

Saddam Hussain, a 5th grader, says he has trouble sleeping since the disaster. “I only sleep for around two hours at night, that also with great difficulty. Most nights I am just sitting up the whole night,” he said.

In interviews with people in several villages only a few said they received compensation from authorities — 20,000 rupees ($233.90 USD).-Reuters

About the author

Haroon Akram Gill

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *