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Pakistanis wait for assistance to rebuild

In the Balochistan region of Pakistan, the flood waters have now retreated. Here, among other aid agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Pakistan Red Crescent are working on the huge task of helping the estimated 600,000 people displaced by the waters.

Food stocks for around 70,000 people have now been transferred to a new distribution centre founded in Karachi and this centre, with its fleet of heavy trucks, is acting as the logistics hub for Balochistan and its cities of Quetta and Sibi. The ICRC has also set up a mobile health clinic to tour round the region and this is treating more than 2,000 people each week. The charity has also provided shelter items for around 240,000 people.

But as flood victims return to their villages, people are beginning to need assistance in rebuilding their homes. One woman living in a camp in Nowshera went to the visiting UN officials and said ‘please give us some money so that we can go home.’ The Pakistani government has pledged each family will receive 100,000 rupees (1,165 dollars) in compensation to help rebuild. The first instalment of 20,000 rupees has been promised to families by the end of this month, though this compensation money may be hard to find for the cash-strapped government.

But time is running short in some areas of Pakistan. In the north-west, the harsh winter of the highland mountainous region is fast approaching. The first snows are expected in roughly a month’s time. Here the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has been airlifting shelter supplies, because many of the roads to remote towns have been destroyed. 

In the village of Utror, in the Upper Swat region, 300 houses were washed away and the UNHCR has been sending shelter kits by air. These provide a large warm room for families. Other non-food items, such as warm clothing, are also still desperately needed, though the UNHCR may have to wait for the main road to be opened for such supplies. Even when they have shelter, the opening of the road is vital for families. Without it, they are unable to sell the crops which weren’t destroyed by the flash floods. And medical assistance is extremely hard to reach. It takes several hours by vehicle to reach the nearest hospital down the valley at Mingora. Without the road, villagers must rely on begging a lift from one of the helicopters. One woman, Zeenat, managed to hitch a lift to take her desperately ill four-year old daughter for treatment at the hospital. She has had to pay for a hotel room, but at least her daughter is recovering. Now she and the other villages are praying they will receive as much help as possible to rebuild their lives, before the harsh winter descends.

Laurinda Luffman signature