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After the southwest Pakistan floods, life will not be the same for Imtiaz

UNICEF Image: Pakistan flood
© UNICEF Pakistan/2007
Imtiaz, 7, has developed skin disease due to bad hygiene conditions at the camp where he and his family are living in Pakistan’s flood-affected Balochistan Province.

By Sandra Bisin

NASIR ABAD CAMP, Balochistan, 16 July 2007 – “It was night time. It rained so much. I was all wet and I was scared.”

This is all Imtiaz, 7, remembers from the night he and his mother and two sisters fled their home to escape the torrential rains that came in the wake of Cyclone Yemyin. The cyclone hit southwest Pakistan on 23 June.

Imtiaz’s village and mud-brick house in Kech Valley, Balochistan Province, were washed away by the water overflowing a nearby dam. Kech Valley is one of the areas worst affected by the recent heavy rains.

“In one day, it rained as much as it normally rains in one year,” says Imtiaz’s mother, Murad Bibi. For 24 hours beginning on the night of 26 June the rainfall was 178 mm, while the average yearly rainfall in the district is 101 mm.

UNICEF Image: Pakistan flood
© UNICEF Pakistan/2007
Kech Valley in Balochistan is one of the areas worst affected by four days of heavy rains in the wake of Cyclone Yemyin on 23 June.

300,000 children at risk

An estimated 2 million people in Balochistan and Sindh Provinces have been affected by the floods. At least 300,000 children under the age of five are particularly at risk from infectious diseases, epidemics and poor nutrition.

In response to this emergency, UNICEF is coordinating with provincial and federal authorities, sister UN agencies and other partners to ensure that children’s needs are addressed and they have access to food, safe water and medicine.

Imtiaz and his mother have now been living for over two weeks in the relief camp set up in Nasir Abad. The camp is home to 25,000 people whose only sources of water are a well and a river located 1 km away. Imtiaz has developed skin disease due the extreme temperatures (50 degrees Celsius on average) and bad hygiene conditions in the camp.

His mother is worried. “The last meal we had was a week ago,” she says. “We have only been eating dates for the past few days.”

Before the floods, cultivation of dates was the most important income source for the people in Kech Valley. With the disaster, they have lost close to 95 per cent of this year’s harvest.

© UNICEF Pakistan/2007
A few tents have been set up in Nasir Abad camp, but most families are still sleeping in the open.

‘A new home soon’

Indicators for children in Balochistan were already low prior to the cyclone. One out of 10 infants dies in the province dies before reaching his or her first birthday, and 40 per cent of children under five are underweight.

“My husband left me to marry with another woman,” says Ms. Bibi. “We were living at my brother’s home before the floods, and he would take care of me. But now we’ve lost everything – our crops, our belongings. We have been wearing the same clothes since the night we left the house”.

Adds Imtiaz: “Even when the water goes away, I don’t want to go back to our house. I am too scared.”

Not all the displaced have a tent in the camp, and when they do, they have to share it with five other families. For Imtiaz and his family, days and nights are spent under the open sky. His mother says their life will never be the same.

“I hope we can have a new home soon, but not in the same place,” says Imtiaz, “so I can feel safe.”



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