Reaching to the children and women affected by floods in Pakistan.
By Antonia Paradela
Ishakhil Larama village, Peshawar, August 2008 – It is shortly after midday on a hot and humid day and Saima sits on a string bed, her baby on her lap. She listens keenly to a demonstration by her local Lady Health Worker on how to prepare oral rehydration drinks to treat diarrhoea. For Saima, a 15-year-old mother, this knowledge is vital to look after her two children: six-month-old Atifullah and 18-month-old Nayab.
“We fled in a panic, grabbing our children. We went to high areas in the village, but as the water continue rising we had to take refugee in four different houses.”
Two weeks ago, Saima and the Wasiullah family lost their homes after torrential rain water flooded their village in Peshawar District in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province. For Saima and her extended family, the fast-rising waters came as a surprise as their area had never suffered from floods in the past. “Within minutes the water was at waist level”, Saima remembers. “We fled in a panic, grabbing our children. We went to high areas in the village, but as the water continue rising we had to take refugee in four different houses.” When they went back to the family home, the flood waters had melted the mud structures and most of their belongings were destroyed. The four families, including 17 children, now sleep in the open, with only one tent to provide shelter. The men and the older boys spend the night at the local school.
Children and women are the worst affected by the floods that hit the outskirts of Peshawar at the beginning of August. According to government estimates about 200,000 people have been affected. More than three quarters of them are children and women.
They are also amongst the most vulnerable. Child mortality and malnutrition rates were high even before the floods. UNICEF and its partners are working to ensure that children have access to food, safe water and protection from abuse or exploitation.
For Farzana Kamal, the local Lady Health Worker who visits the families in her area regularly, it is important that the mothers understand the importance of preparing safe drinking water to prevent the outbreak of gastrointestinal illnesses and remedies when the disease strikes. She knows Saima well and it is due to her encouragement that the young mother has exclusively breastfed her second baby since his birth.
With hygiene materials and knowledge, Namro can help prevent diseases related to poor sanitation and hygiene in her family. But rebuilding the family’s life will be a long, slow process.
UNICEF is working to make sure that vulnerable groups such as separated and orphaned children as well as households headed by women have access to relief and services. The organisation will assist in setting up child friendly and learning spaces and supplying educational materials for children living in camps for the displaced. It will also assist with reopening schools as soon as possible.