For more than four months last year Pakistan was ravaged by floods which killed hundreds of people and displaced millions, destroyed homes, schools and infrastructure, and impacted livelihoods. Tearfund’s local partner was able to offer immediate and ongoing relief to people affected by the floods, and your generous donations helped to make this support possible. Now the rebuilding effort is under way. There is much still to pray about, and much to be thankful for.
Tearfund Australia program officer Paul Hansen visited Pakistan last month to meet with staff from Tearfund’s partner the Diocese of Hyderabad, which – in addition to its regular work with communities in education, health care and livelihoods – responded with emergency assistance for people affected by the floods. While there he met Dami and Poonja, elders in a village in Sindh, a province which was hit particularly badly by the floods. He spoke to them about the impact of the floods on their community, and how the relief and recovery effort is going.
When the flood waters hit the village there had been very little warning, Dami and Poonja said: “The rain just kept falling and the water rising.” It was an extremely challenging time for the people of the village. When they realised the water was rising and reaching their houses, they collected their belongings and waded to higher ground. Most of their food was lost in the floods and they initially had nothing to eat, which was especially difficult for children.
Staff from the Diocese of Hyderabad staff reached impacted families on the first day, wading through about a metre of water to bring cooked food. They continued to support people there and in other flood-affected communities in Sindh, distributing food essentials like flour, cooking oil, pulses and rice, as well as mosquito nets and drinking water. They also helped people access emergency shelter.
Dami and Poonja say they don’t know how they would have survived without this timely support. They're so grateful for it.
The rain just kept falling and the water rising...
When Paul Hansen visited their village, people were making the most of the current dry season to rebuild kitchens and toilet facilities first, bringing immediate improvements to sanitation. The rebuilt kitchens are being constructed on a raised platform in the hope that they will be above the flood level next time.
“They have also put a lot of effort into making them colourful – decorating them has been a form of therapy after the trauma of the floods,” Paul said.
Some houses have also been rebuilt, but this will take more time. Once again, many people are raising their houses above flood level to try to reduce the amount of damage from future floods.
While the floods destroyed many of Pakistan’s wet season crops (nearly 15 per cent of the rice crop and 40 per cent of the cotton crop), in most places the winter crops like wheat and mustard have been able to go in and will be harvested soon.
However, not all of the flood water has receded yet – some land is still inundated and some has become too salty to plant in, so winter crops will be smaller than in previous years. That will have an impact on the availability of work for farm labourers, and prices for some staple food items have doubled.
And with contaminated and stagnant flood waters remaining across parts of the country, the risk of waterborne diseases like dengue fever and malaria remains as well.
Diocese of Hyderabad is continuing to support communities affected by floods, particularly those where needs are particularly high – for example, where flood waters have taken longer to recede, or where work shortages have hit particularly hard. Practical support like kitchen supplies and rebuilding damaged roofs on school huts will help these communities as they face the immense task of rebuilding.
While significant challenges remain in Pakistan, there are signs of hope too. Thank you for helping our partner to deliver much-needed aid, through your donation to our Pakistan Flood Emergency Appeal.
Natural disasters like floods and earthquakes take a massive toll on communities. Women are particularly vulnerable in these sorts of crises, but they’re also important sources of strength and leadership as they support and care for their communities.
By listening to the voices of women in disaster-affected communities, we can learn so much about the challenges they face in times of crisis, how they can be better supported, and the courage and resilience they bring to these situations.
When flood waters reached Radha’s village in Sindh province last year, every house in the village was destroyed, covered in up to 1.5 metres of water. Radha, a mother of five, says women faced particular challenges when the flood waters came.
The floods were very difficult for women as the water came at night, and we had to gather and carry children, as well as whatever household belongings we could manage, to the nearest high ground.
The nearest high ground was a road, and while it was a place of safety and refuge from the flood waters, for women and children there were other threats.
“While we were staying at the road it was difficult to cook food as there wasn't much dry wood and we had no fireplace,” she said. “There was no washroom and so privacy was really difficult: everywhere was surrounded by water. We felt afraid while staying on the road, as vehicles would come along and the children did not have much road awareness. At night the children would be scared of the lights of trucks going past.”
Radha’s village received several food distributions from Tearfund’s partner Diocese of Hyderabad, adding up to around three months’ worth of food. It took about three months for the flood waters to recede and for them to be able to return to the village. Many people spent those three months living on the higher ground of the road; others travelled to a place in the desert away from flood waters. Either way, life was precarious and difficult.
There was some good news for the children of the village, though. The year before the floods, with support from Tearfund and the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Australian NGO Cooperation Program, our partner set up a school there with reinforced concrete posts to strengthen it in case of future floods. The concrete posts and building structure survived the flood – only the mud walls and thatch roof had to be replaced, and the school was up and running again more quickly than it would have been without that additional structural support.
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