In Pakistan, monsoon floods return to new areas causing widespread devastation
By Abdul Sami Malik
BADIN DISTRICT, SINDH PROVINCE, Pakistan, 14 September 2011 - Like déjà vu, exceptionally heavy monsoon rains that caused an unprecedented disaster in Pakistan during 2010 have returned with a vengeance to hit the southernmost part of the country.
New flood areasMore than five million people have been affected by the latest heavy rains and according to the meteorological forecast, further rains are expected over the next few days. In addition to areas that were affected last year, new areas have also come under water. As 22 out of 23 districts of Sindh have been affected, recovery and rehabilitation activities being carried out by the humanitarian organisations in affected communities have taken a serious blow.
In 2010, the district of Badin was fortunate not to be affected by the floods. Hosting displaced populations from the neighbouring districts, area residents considered themselves lucky to have escaped the devastation. This time around, however, Badin is one of the worst affected districts. Uninterrupted rains for nearly a month, have affected nearly 68 per cent of the estimated 1,420,000 people in the district.
More than 500 people displaced from a large number of villages in the district have taken refuge in the Government Boys High School in Badin city. These people have been living in the school building converted into a relief camp for nearly a month. While these people remain dependent on the district authorities for safe drinking water and food, insufficient sanitation facilities in the school building forces many to defecate in the open.
Waiting for helpZubaida, a widow, living in the camp along with her five children, had to flee her village as the water level started to rise. Though determined to face the adverse situation, she complained about insufficient services at the camp.
“We have been living in this camp for a month without much help from anyone,” she said. “There is dirty water all around and even inside the building. Many children are sick but there is no doctor or medicines.”
On the second day of our mission to the worst hit flood affected areas of Sindh, we stopped at a location where hundreds of affected people were spread out in the road. Children were swimming in dirty rain water while women were using the same water for washing clothes. People had laid out all their belongings, including clothing, utensils and colourful hand-stitched bed sheets. The moment we got out of our vehicles, women, children and young men started running towards us in anticipation of receiving food and eager to tell their stories. The common complaint everyone had was, “We have not received any help”.
Risk of waterborne diseaseMoving further east from Mirpurkhas city, we noticed heavily populated settlements of IDPs alongside the highway. Large areas on both sides of the road were covered with water. Remains of a number of dead animals especially chicken and buffalos could be seen floating in the murky water. Dead animals, mosquitos and non-availability of safe drinking water pose a major threat of waterborne diseases to the village population.
When we reached Digri, a city in Mirpurkhas district, we witnessed the worst situation yet. The entire city was filled with flood water and our vehicles could not go any further. A local told me that beyond Digri, almost 70 kilometres of the highway are under water and all traffic has been suspended on this route.