Over one hundred days have passed since the floods hit Pakistan and families across the country tell their stories how they have been affected by the catastrophe.
In northwestern Pakistan, at the Muhammad Khwaja camp in Hangu, Lal Khan spoke of how the floods in August only added the ongoing miseries of those who have been displaced by the fighting. Tents were surrounded in mud and Lal’s children fell ill because their bedding was constantly wet. With the fighting ongoing, Lal and his family cannot go home and face a bleak winter in the camp.
In the Punjab province, families tried their best to celebrate the Muslim feast of Eid in November. Gaman Mai’s family returned to their village of Janpur two months ago after spending weeks living along the Sutlej riverbank. Their house was severely damaged and they lost all their crops to the floods, amounting to a loss in cotton and sugarcane of around 9,400 dollars. The family received tents from the UNHCR, as well as food rations and other household items, to help them survive the coming winter months. Gaman felt lucky because her whole family of 12, including 7 grandchildren, had survived the ordeal and could start to rebuild their home and community. They even had a goat to sacrifice for the festival of Eid.
Further south in the province of Singh, many refugees are still unable to return home, with many communities isolated by the remaining flood waters. Around 1.5 million people are still living in camps throughout the province. In the Seelara Kot camp set up by the UNHCR, Mumtaz Ali lives with his family, his wife Zulekha and four children. Zulekha gave birth after they arrived, but the baby died because of her weakened state. Zulekha was mourning the loss of her seven-year old son who did not survive the floods and her husband says his wife “weeps when she looks at other people’s children”. Now with their remaining four children, Mumtaz Ali worries how he will pay his landlord when they finally return home. As a tenant farmer, he has lost crops worth 1,800 dollars and will have no money for rent. But for the moment home is a distant dream and the farmer must worry about obtaining enough food each day to feed his family, with the shortages of supplies.
Ghulam Uddin’s home is a village in the Dadu district of Sindh. The village is still marooned by floodwater, but he decided to return to his house because his elderly mother was finding camp life unbearable. Like many, his house was badly damaged and his family are living out in the open. For food they rely on irregular handouts which come by tractors. But life is hard, because food deliveries are erratic and the family have lost all their animals. Around 1.5 million people in Sindh have moved out of the camps to return as close to their houses as they can. Aid organizations are working hard to provide assistance, but reaching isolated areas with supplies is not easy.
Humanitarian organisations are also worried that funds are running low. With almost seven million Pakistanis living without proper shelter or regular food, and with winter around the corner, the message from the charities is clear – “aid is needed now more than ever.”