Finding shelter in Pakistan's makeshift camps
Arbeli, 8, made the long journey to a relief camp in Sukkur, Pakistan, after recent flooding devastated her family's home village.
By Tania McBride
SUKKUR, Pakistan, 9 September 2010 – Arbeli, 8, sat with the other children on a hammock bed under some shade cloths. She was watching Dr. Nasreem Khaskheli – one of three members of a UNICEF-supported mobile health team – treat patients in her temporary camp clinic.
Arbeli and her family arrived at the camp only recently after floods ravaged their home. Along with 11 other families from their village, Arbeli and her family had made the long trek to Sukkur by foot. The little girl is now living with her mother and brothers under a tarpaulin in the intense summer sun.
“When the floods came, my house was destroyed,” said Arbeli, her voice barely above a whisper and her eyes downcast. “All of my things were taken by the water, even my bed was washed away.”
Walking with her family to Sukkur after the devastation of her village, Arbeli had no idea what lay ahead.
“The children were tired and frightened,” recalled Arbeli’s mother. “We simply couldn’t go home, our house has been destroyed and our animals were gone. We have nothing to go to.”
Like many children her age across the flood zone, Arbeli never attended school in her home village and instead helped her family look after the house and tend to the fields and animals. But now, having watched her life wash away so abruptly, the little girl is in a state of shock – only gradually adjusting to her new surroundings.
Arbeli said she still misses her house, her bed and her clothes. “It’s better at home,” she said softly.
She and her family have no idea when they will return to their village. They hope to go back and rebuild their lives once the floodwaters recede completely. For now, however, home is a white tarpaulin on the edge of a dusty, noisy road, where trucks race past blasting their horns and leaving the lingering odor of gasoline.
Despite the dire circumstances, Arbeli has only one request.
“I only have these clothes,” she explained. “I really want some new clothes and shoes.”