Communities move to safer locations as floods devastate Pakistan, yet again
Rajanpur district, Pakistan, October 2012 – Twelve-year-old Muhammad Zahid Mazari struggles to pull his donkey cart through waist-deep flood water, supported by his father and two uncles. The cart is loaded with the family’s most prized possession – a motorbike – and sacks full of household items.
As male members of Zahid’s family pull the donkey cart through flood water, his mother, Sughran bibi, follows them carrying small household items. To her, this is déjà vu. The catastrophe her family faced two years ago has struck again.
Soon after reaching high ground, the donkey collapses, fatigued and out of breath. Zahid, his father and uncles are bone tired but know that their job is not yet over. They have to complete at least one more round before sunset.
“This is our second trip of the day but we have to go back and bring more household items,” says Zahid. “Our village is completely surrounded by water. The only pakka (metaled) road has been wiped away by water. We are bringing our things to safety as our house is damaged and if it rains any more, it might fall.”
Zahid and his family are residents of Basti Thogiani, a small village in Union Council Umer Kot of Rajanpur district, one of the worst hit by the monsoon floods in the southern province of Punjab. Like 2010, flash flooding has again devastated a large area in Rajanpur district, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and destroying crops and cattle.
Communities living in the rural areas of Rajanpur district primarily depend on harvesting and livestock. Floods have destroyed both. Already living below the poverty line and struggling to cope with losses suffered two years ago, these communities are dependent on support from the authorities and humanitarian organisations.
Zahid’s mother, Sughran bibi, is a reflection of the fading resilience of these communities in the wake of repeated disasters, as she complains about nature being cruel to them.
“We are poor people and this keeps happening to us,” says Sughran bibi. “Every time water comes in, it takes away our livelihood. Our crops and cattle are gone. We don’t know where to go and for how long we will be away from our village. Only God can help us.”
Floods in Pakistan have once again caused heavy damage in three provinces of the country. Fifteen districts in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan provinces have been affected due to monsoon rains and hill torrents. According to the National Disaster Management Authority 4.9 million people have been affected. However, the impact of this disaster has not yet been realised by the world community.
UNICEF and its partners are responding to critical needs of the affected population using its contingency stock and emergency loan funds. Safe drinking water is being provided to more than 250,000 flood-affected people, while nearly 110,000 people have received hygiene supplies.
In collaboration with the Government’s health department, UNICEF and partners have vaccinated more than 26,000 children against measles, while 12,000 children have been given Vitamin A supplementation and 10,000 children have been provided routine immunization.
Through 22 Outpatient Therapeutic Programmes, 22 Supplementary Therapeutic Programmes and four stabilization centres, UNICEF and its nutrition cluster partners have screened nearly 4,400 children under five years of age and nearly 1,200 pregnant and lactating women for malnutrition.
These and other critical humanitarian activities require immediate funding. UNICEF urgently requires USD15.4 million over the next three months to respond to the health, nutrition, water, sanitation, hygiene, education and child protection needs of children and women displaced by the floods.