Pakistan floods: eyewitness account from Plan staff
Shah Nawaz Khan, Plan's Disaster Risk Reduction Coordinator in Pakistan, gives a first-hand account of the floods that have impacted up to 15 million people:
I HAVE worked in disasters before but never have I come across this level of vulnerability and devastation.
People were forced to leave their homes and they stood by and watched helplessly as everything they owned was destroyed. Their basic concern now is that whatever they have left of their livestock and their homes might be stolen.
People are telling me that once a little bit of water has receded, they will try to make their way back home. They say they have nothing now, no food, no security, no houses and if they are going to die, they would rather be at home. In our culture, privacy is very important, they don’t like being exposed like this.
One elderly man summed up the feelings of many of those around him. “Leaving the house is death for us,” he said, “Our girls never left the house before and now they are sitting in front of hundreds of people. This is more painful to us than death. I pray to God that even my enemies do not suffer like this.”
Our team, (Plan’s response team), has spent the last week working in Muzzaffargarh, one of the worst hit areas. During our initial relief work, we provided direct aid, food and shelter assistance to 100,000 people throughout the district. But, due to heavy flooding we were, along with thousands of other people, forced to move out of Muzzaffargarh to safer ground in the city of Multan.
I have witnessed many disturbing scenes. Children walking around listlessly, lost and vulnerable, their parents, dealing with their own grief, cannot give them the attention they need. For many, the reality is only starting to hit them.
One man told me: “Today we received lunch at 5pm and we realized that it is a real test from God, because there was a time when we could host 100 guests. Today though, we waited for food and our children cried in hunger; now we are beggars.”
A number of people were forcibly removed from their homes; they simply did not want to leave as this was all they owned. And once they leave, uncertainty follows them. They don’t know where they are going and if there is anywhere they can go that will have food and shelter.
The priority right now is to get food to the people. Then we need to focus on hygiene and child protection. The camps are full of women and children separated from their husbands and fathers. Most of the men have remained at home while other families split up when they were escaping or evacuated in the floods. It’s these vulnerable groups that we need to pay attention to.
It is difficult to feel hopeful for the future when the rain is still falling non-stop. Though once it stops, people will move as quickly as they can to get home.
Plan continues to support victims of the flood. Our initial relief efforts have included distributing food to 100,000 people. Some 4,000 health and hygiene kits have been packed and shipped to Layyah, Rajanpur and Ghotki for distribution, with 9,000 more to follow. 75 community size tents have been delivered, and 39,000 milk tetra packs were sent to Multan for distribution to Layyah and Rajanpur.
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Donate today to provide relief to children and families affected by flooding in Pakistan.