Landslides and Mule Chains

Wednesday, August 11, 2010 

Save the Children's Reporting Coordinator in Pakistan

With floodwaters causing havoc down south in Sindh and continuous showers falling in different parts of the country, the current floods in Pakistan are the worst natural disaster in the country's history.  With entire districts submerged and fear of more flooding from rains in Afghanistan, our work in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is rapidly gaining pace.

In spite of continuous rain, high altitudes and the raging river Indus, Save the Children’s emergency medical team in Allai crossed the Indus River by a hanging trolley. A chain of mules were used for transporting medical supplies to the affected area. Like islands in the vast flooded areas of Dera Ismail Khan, Save the Children’s mobile health teams are providing medical aid to people trapped in their villages and towns. Another team trekked for two days to reach the devastated city of Kalam in Swat, where they have provided 27 metric tons of food (supplied by WFP) to 316 families.    

Landslide on Malakand Mountains

After a two day respite in Islamabad, I braved the heavy downpour on my way back to Swat through the mountains of Malakand. Small rocks and sand cluttered the mountainous road until we reached a point where the army’s engineers stopped all traffic. A huge rock was splintering due to the rain, and the entire mountainside was about to collapse. We were stalled until late in the evening — trapped in the dark blue dusk, nearly 200 feet above the valley floor, shrouded in clouds. The rock eventually tumbled down, along with a large chunk of the mountain. A one-way road was carved into the rubble after four hours of incessant shoveling by bulldozers. See a video of the landslide below.

Beautiful Shangla

Yesterday, I visited Swat’s neighboring district of Shangla to assess flood damage. The entire district is a pastel of lush green mountains and valleys, glistening with white rooftops and fresh natural springs gushing into villages and towns. Meetings with government officials and army officers revealed that the entire valley of Shahpur, population of more than 250,000 people, is severely affected and cut off from the rest of Shangla. Nearly 70,000 extremely vulnerable people, with no belongings or stable sources of income, are awaiting assistance in Shahpur. Some 270 houses, seven bridges, two hospitals and four schools have been destroyed, whereas thousands of people have lost their farms, livestock and businesses. Unfortunately, no humanitarian aid has reached the affected people yet. There is only a committee of civil authorities, armed forces and community notables using a chain of 50 mules to transport basic food rations to 1,400 families in the 35-kilometer stretch of the valley.    

In this week, we will hopefully provide 1,000 families with tents and shelter kits to make temporary houses as well as 1,500 people with food rations in the distant areas of Upper Swat. We fear more rains, flooding and landslides, but our resolve to assist children
and families remains undeterred.

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