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As news of rising water levels in some of the major rivers of Pakistan make headlines today, I cannot help but fear for the people that are in the ‘danger zones’. I am in Rajanpur with the Save the Children team, assessing the damage and preparing for more monsoon rains. Visiting a completely damaged community in Rajanpur today, I saw tents and makeshift shelters stretched across the length of the road as far as the eye could see. Children played with each other, while chickens and livestock wandered nearby, and women went about their daily chores. Life seemed normal, but in the distance, families could see their houses submerged in water, largely inaccessible, and destroyed. Here was an entire community, living on the side of the road, without any idea of when they would be able to return.
I met many women today at an emergency health camp where they were seeking medical help for themselves and their children. Pregnant women in particular faced the greatest difficulty. Access to a health facility is both expensive and difficult at the best of times as there are few facilities in the flood-affected areas, but with many roads now closed off, people must now travel even farther to reach medical services.
I met a lot of women today, but Anisa, the young mother of an 18-month old son, was different from the rest. She has polio and can only walk with the help of crutches. Married at 14 to Amjad, a bed-ridden tuberculosis patient, Anisa is the sole care-taker and breadwinner for her family. She works in the fields and does occasional handiwork but only makes an average of $35/month – not enough to provide a good life for her child. When the floods hit their home, neighbours had to carry her to safety in a charpoy as there was no way she could wade through the waist-high waters.
Anisa is an inspiration for me. She represents all the hard working women of Pakistan who will do anything for their families even when faced with enormous obstacles. She has survived a series of devastating floods over the past years and continues to do everything she can to provide for her husband and son while battling a disease that only remains in three countries globally. If Anisa can muster the strength and courage to work hard despite all of her difficulties, I think we all can.