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In flood-affected Pakistan, a newborn’s first days are spent in a temporary camp

© UNICEF Pakistan/2011/Youngmeyer
Displaced by floods in Pakistan, Buchai holds her 12-day-old baby, Shanina, at a relief camp for flood-affected families.

By David Youngmeyer

SINDH, Pakistan, 30 September 2011 - While Shanini was still in her mother’s womb and only days away from being born, severe monsoon rains were creating turmoil in the world outside.

Unknown to Shanini, the rain led to floods, which quickly affected not only her community, but 22 of the 23 districts in Sindh province. Shanini’s future home, made from mud bricks, was quickly engulfed by the roiling waters and destroyed.

Life in the camp

Joining many other displaced people from the area, Shanini and her family moved to a new relief camp set up by the district authorities approximately three kilometres from her old home. Sitting on a large flat patch of dry ground, the sprawling camp is currently home to 347 families, including 1,095 children.

Shanini’s family were allocated a pup tent on the edge of the camp, and although living within those small confines is extremely primitive and crowded, at least they have a shelter. One hundred families at the camp are still waiting to receive a tent.

The family sleeps on thin blankets strewn on the hard, dirt ground, and their few possessions are pushed over to one side of the tent. If it rains, the dirt will rapidly turn to mud, but unlike many temporary relief sites throughout the province, this camp provides basic essential services such as, clean water, toilets and a small health clinic.

© UNICEF Pakistan/2011/Youngmeyer
Children outside their tent at a relief camp that is home to 347 families displaced by floods in Sindh province, Pakistan.

A parent’s concerns

Shanini’s mother, Buchai Mungharrar, 35, explained that two days after moving to the camp she gave birth to Shanini, relocating temporarily to a local health centre for the delivery. Buchai is currently breastfeeding Shanini, who is now 12 days old. Although the camp environment is not ideal for a new baby, Buchai’s breast milk is essential to help protect Shanini against killer infections, particularly diarrhoea and pneumonia.

Buchai’s husband is currently working in nearby Tando Allah Yar city, but the family is extremely poor and buying fruit and vegetables is a struggle.

“What I’m most worried about,” said Buchai, “are the mosquitoes. We don’t have a net to protect the children and the mosquitoes are everywhere.”

UNICEF provides support

UNICEF is scaling up its emergency response in the worst-affected parts of Sindh. Working closely with the National Department of Health, UNICEF and other partners are providing support to mobile and static health teams, which have already reached more than 3,000 women with ante-natal care, deliveries, post-natal care, and referrals to health facilities.  UNICEF has also supported mobile teams to administer more than 135,000 vaccines to children at relief sites, immunizing them against such diseases as measles and polio.

No one can say how long Buchai and her family will be at the camp, but they, like everyone who has been displaced, are waiting anxiously for the flood waters to recede. At least then they can return to their home areas and start to rebuild their lives.



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