An oarsman navigates his inner-tube boat across the raging Swat River in northwest Pakistan. The bridge that once traversed the river was destroyed by the floods. (from npr.org)
Pakistan floods: A crisis unlike any other
By Rebecca Barber | Tue, 31 Aug 2010 - 12:30
Oxfam Humanitarian Policy & Advocacy Advisor, Pakistan
Comparisons might help us picture the immensity of what’s happening in Pakistan. But what they can’t convey is the suffering that people are going through. In this excerpt, Rebecca Barber, Oxfam’s humanitarian policy and advocacy advisor in Pakistan, reflects on the human scope of this month’s catastrophic floods.
First, we heard that the floods were the worst in a generation. Then it was the worst natural disaster in the country’s history. Then – the one we hear time and again – the number of people affected was more than the Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the Haiti earthquake put together. The Pakistani Prime Minister told us that the floods were ‘worse than partition.’ The BBC told us that the floods would cover a third of England... and Oxfam’s campaigners worked out what the flooding would look like in Central Europe.... All with a view to getting people around the world somehow to picture the immensity of what’s happening to Pakistan.
But while such comparisons can help to convey the scale of the crisis, what they don’t and can’t convey is the suffering that every one of those 17 million people ‘affected’ – or at least the eight million whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed – are going through. Normally, Pakistani women don’t like to have their photos taken. It’s seen to be undignified. But in the camps and along the side of the roads there’s no dignity left, and men and women alike push themselves forward to be photographed, hoping that somehow, it will lead to someone somewhere coming to their assistance.
In a camp in Khairpur, in Sindh, a man told me that he had paid 20,000 rupees (US$230) to evacuate himself and his family from his village when the flood warning came. To cover the costs, he sold the household’s entire crop of wheat. Between himself, his father and his uncle, the family had owned 13 buffalo. But they couldn’t afford to bring them with them when they evacuated, and all drowned when the floodwaters washed through the village. Three of his brothers have stayed behind, camping out on some nearby high land to keep an eye on what’s left of their homes. The village is under five feet of water, and he says he thinks it will be two years before they’ll be able to cultivate again.
In another camp, a man told me that his family had left behind eight goats, two cows and two buffalo when the army evacuated them. He and his family were ‘tenant farmers’ – living on and cultivating the landlord’s land. In addition to the goats, cows and buffalo, they’d owned a small vegetable plot. They’d subsisted day to day on the small profits from the livestock, the vegetables they grew themselves, and a small potion of the landlord’s crops. But the work won’t start again until January next year, when the time for harvesting sugarcane comes around.
Until then, he says he’ll go to one of the cities and look for casual laboring work. He won’t get more than 100 rupees (a bit over a dollar) a day though, nothing like enough to feed a family of ten. And there’s no savings to see them through. His daughter said she’d lost the dowry she’d kept in a trunk for six years: clothes, gold, cooking utensils, and cash.
It's been all over the news but needs saying again: the international response to this crisis hasn’t been big enough or fast enough to alleviate the suffering of the millions of Pakistanis who have not only lost everything they own but right now are living in appalling conditions.... The number of people affected may well be greater than any other disaster we’ve ever seen, but more importantly, people are suffering. And they need much, much more help than we’ve been able to give them.
Oxfam International is providing clean water, food, shelter and healthcare.
As of 28 August, we've reached more than 450,000 people with humanitarian aid.
From Oxfam International Blogposts.
Find much more on Oxfam and Pakistan with videos and various reports Click here
Stories from US National Public Radio here and here
Australia sends more help here
A South Asia Magazine discusses Pakistan's Great Flood Click here
A few suggestions of way to hold events to raise much needed funds for Pakistan
Click here Let's keep sharing more ways to get help to Pakistan!
Petition to cancel Pakistan's debt Click here
See various related items at "All Things Pakistan" here and here
Plz keep coming back to oneheartforpeace to see more updates and ways to help including ESPECIALLY more heroic Pakistani efforts in blogs below this one or above...Thanx as always for coming by...