Flood displaced families endure dire conditions in crowded school shelter
A woman and child play in the corridor of a school relief site, while other displaced families look on.
By David Youngmeyer
SINDH, Pakistan – Brightly coloured washing hangs in the corridor of a school in Badin district, where there are no students or teachers. Instead, the school has become a temporary home to some 127 families, displaced by the severe monsoon floods that have ravaged southern Pakistan.
In one of the dimly lit classrooms, a mix of children and adults rest on thin mats, which provide little comfort from the hard tile floor. A few meagre possessions line one of the walls. There are no chairs or beds and swarms of flies crawl over every surface. Three families including 30 children, share this one tiny room.
‘It’s hard for the children’
“It’s crowded and dirty here, and there are lots of mosquitoes,” Gul Ansari
A spokesperson for one of the families, Gul Ansari, expressed the difficulty of living in such cramped quarters. “It’s crowded and dirty here, and there are lots of mosquitoes,” he said. “We are grateful that food is being provided, although the last supplies we got were 15 days ago. It’s hard for the children.”
Gul said that several of the children living in this classroom are suffering from diarrhoea. A nearby hospital is available if treatment is necessary.
“The children would all like to go home as soon as possible,” said Gul. “They have nothing to do here and with so many children in such a small space it’s hard to maintain any kind of order.”
An uncertain future
Gul used to own a small business making ice-cream and selling it from his bicycle. When the floods hit, all his ice-cream production equipment was washed away. Now there is no income to sustain his family. Resignedly, he explained that most people he’s spoken to in the camp are facing similar challenges.
Grabbing what little they could from their home Gul and his family, they walked an hour to escape the floodwaters and reach the relative safety of the school relief shelter. How they feel about that decision now, only they can know, but like everyone caught up in the flood disaster, they just want to go home.
A UNICEF-supported assessment team confirmed that clean water is being delivered to the school regularly by district authorities, but identified a need for water and hygiene-related supplies, such as buckets, soap and jerry cans, along with hygiene kits, which have since been distributed at the school. UNICEF hygiene kits provide supplies such as soap, soap dish, toothpaste, toothbrushes, flannel cloth and towels.