After the Flood: Pakistan’s humanitarian crisis far from over
After the flood
More than six months on, the humanitarian crisis brought about by the worst flooding in Pakistan’s history is far from over. The IRC is providing clean water and health care, and helping hard hit communities to rebuild vital infrastructure and kick start their local economies.
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Some 170,000 flood victims remain in camps for displaced people, according to the United Nations. The number of homeless people is much higher, including those living in tents beside wrecked homes, like this family near Shah Wasaye. (Photo: Peter Biro/IRC)
Text and Photos by Peter Biro
A little more than six months ago Pakistan was inundated by the worst floods in living memory. The toll in human suffering was incalculable. Over 20 million people were made homeless or otherwise affected by the deluge. Some 1.7 million homes were destroyed and 5.4 million acres of land damaged. And the humanitarian crisis brought about by the flooding is far from over.
In late February, when the residents of Shah Wasaye, a heavily flood-damaged village in Sindh Province, returned home for the first time after spending months in a government-run displaced persons camp, all they found was a field littered with debris. The formerly fertile soil was covered by a thin crust of salt left by receding flood water. No building was still standing. The villagers were forced to erect makeshift tents where their homes once stood.
“We are happy to be home, on our land,” said Mohammed Omar, one of 400 returning villagers. “But it is very hard. We have lost everything we ever owned: our homes, donkeys, cows and crops.”
To assist people in Shah Wasaye and elsewhere in Pakistan’s flood zone, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is preparing a community rehabilitation project that will be one of the largest and most ambitious it has ever undertaken. The project will rebuild vital infrastructure in Sindh Province, one of the most flood-damaged in Pakistan, while helping over 150,000 people get back to farming and other economic activity.
“Sindh is the breadbasket of Pakistan,” said Mirela Kuljanin, the IRC’s livelihoods coordinator in the province. “So naturally we will focus on rehabilitating and irrigating flood devastated agricultural land.”
The project will work with villages and communities to clean contaminated water canals and irrigation systems and rebuild dams and access roads, Kuljanin said. Participating families will receive fertilizer and enough rice seeds to cultivate at least five acres of land. To help kick start the local economy, the IRC will also distribute poultry and livestock to farmers.
People who live in Pakistan’s vast flood zone, meanwhile, still desperately need access to clean water and health care. Across Sindh Province the IRC has installed water tanks, hand pumps and latrines. Outside of Shah Wasaye the IRC has set up a mobile health clinic that is treating people for diseases brought on by contaminated drinking water and the lack of hygiene. Two roving medical teams provide services that have reached some 50,000 people in the province.
Malnutrition, especially among children, is another chronic problem.
“Children drink dirty stagnant water from ditches and severe diarrhea and malnutrition is often the result,” said Dr. Ghulam Abbas, who oversees IRC health programs in the district of Shahdadkot.
When an IRC medical team determines that a child is malnourished, they are immediately referred to a nearby hospital. But the number of children in need is staggering. According to the United Nations, one-quarter of the children in Sindh Province are severely malnourished.
“The crisis remains acute,” said Tammy Hasselfeldt, director of IRC programs in Pakistan. “The humanitarian response in Pakistan has achieved a lot in six months but with a quarter of this country completely devastated, our work has only just begun.”
Donate Now: Please make an urgent donation to the IRC and help deliver lifesaving water, shelter, sanitation, health care, and other vital resources to the survivors of the Pakistan flooding.