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One year on Pakistani flood survivors still in need as new monsoon arrives

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 29 Jul 2011 18:45 GMT
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By Malini Morzaria, ECHO Regional Information Officer, South Asia

MUZAFFARGARH, Pakistan (ECHO) -  A year after Pakistan’s worst floods in memory, people are still picking up the pieces of their lives, trying to rebuild their homes, incomes, assets and livestock – for many the journey is a long one as recurrent floods erode their efforts.

The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) has put in over €200 million in humanitarian aid since the start of the floods last year; addressing both the impact of the monsoon floods  and the conflict in the north of Pakistan.

“There are still many ongoing humanitarian needs and areas are being flooded again,” said David Sevcik, ECHO’s Head of Office in Islamabad. “While we have been able to help many, there are many who are only just receiving assistance and people we have not been able to reach.”

Janomai has lived in Nari Shomali, in DG Khan District’s Taunsa area, all her life. In this community of over 1000 people, the nearest health centre is a kilometre away and during the monsoon season, access is either by wading through thigh-high water or by boat.  Ever since she was a child, Janomai remembers floods, but none as big as last year’s. 

“Every year the water comes; children, youngsters and the able-bodied run away.  It is the old and infirm who remain tortured by the heat and fear. What else can be done?” laments Janomai, adding: “We have not emerged from last year’s flood.”

This year’s monsoon is early; already land is flooded.

“Before the floods [2010], we used to sit there,” said Bilal Hussein, a labourer from Morjanghi village in Taunsa, pointing to a large area with submerged trees.

“It was a dry place, there was no water. Now the flood has come, the water here is standing. The water will come even higher; it will come up to the wall (his shoulder height).”

THIS YEAR WILL BE WORSE

For Sajid Hamzewallah and his family, it was difficult to decide whether to plant anything this season, because last year’s devastating floods took their rice and sugar cane crops, their home and their livestock.

The 20-year-old had never experienced floods in his village in the Kotadu area in Muzaffargarh, southern Punjab, before the massive deluge last year. An elder of the village, Hameed Hussein, explains that the last floods they saw in this area were well over two decades ago. 

“The fields were covered in sand and silt; we had to clean up the area and with help from international organisations and the landlord, we are now able to plant rice,” said Sajid as he scattered rice seedlings across the paddy. “We feel very helpless; even now all this work could get swept away any day, but we live in hope. It is in God’s hands now.”

As tenant farmers, Sajid and his family received some help from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with tents and materials to rebuild their homes. They lost cattle and goats that were swept away with the flood waters.  “We still had to pay the landowner for renting his field,” adds Sajid. “As a tenant family, we lost over 300,000 Pakistani rupees (€2,400) in goods and income in that flood.”

Sajid’s sister-in-law, Ashrafbibi. says: “We are hearing that last year’s floods were like a cup of water compared to what we expect this year, which will be like a jug of water.” In other words, in some areas, Pakistanis are expecting an even bigger flood than last year.

“This year we are idle. We have not planted anything – it is going to be a tough season for us without our crops and no income,” said Bashir Ahmed, a farmer in Morjanghi.  In Taunsa area, most farmers have not planted rice, cotton or sugar cane this season, for fear of loss.

“Last year, the NGOs gave us a chance to work, and gave us cash to clean our village and build protective banks.  With this we were able to eat and rebuild our lives,” added Bashir.

At their height the 2010 covered roughly a fifth of the country. Around 2,000 people died and 18 million were affected.

“The humanitarian spotlight must be kept on Pakistan because independent and impartial aid delivery will help those in need whose resilience has been depleted and must not be tested further,” added ECHO’s Sevcik.

 To see more of  Malini Morzaria’s pictures click here.

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