Thursday, August 12, 2010
Save the Children's Reporting Coordinator in Pakistan
Qamar, 13, lives in the village of Girlagan in UC Bahrain, Swat. Girlagan has 200 households and is situated on the banks of River Swat near the city of Bahrain, a famous tourist destination in Pakistan. Qamar has four brothers and three younger sisters and they all attend public government schools in Girlagan. Qamar is studying in Class 6 and loves to play cricket.
Qamar’s father is unemployed but his eldest brother runs a small shop in Quetta city to support the family. They live in a small two-room mud house reinforced with wooden beams since they cannot afford to build a brick and steel structure. On Wednesday, July 28, 2010, unprecedented monsoon rains caused flash floods in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Swat. Areas bordering the River Swat were hit with vast torrents of the flood waters, causing widespread destruction of life and property. Due to its location, the village of Girlagan and the surrounding areas of Bahrain city were one of the worst hit areas in Swat.
“Water started entering my home in the afternoon,” remembers Qamar. “People were saying that we should leave since the river would destroy everything in its path.”
In the next few hours, Qamar’s family gathered their precious items and ran to a neighbor’s house uphill. At midnight, the River Swat roared into Girlagan and destroyed the entire street where Qamar’s house was located. Since then, they have been living in a generous neighbor’s house but were still barely making ends meet. Their few savings have been depleted on purchasing expensive food items from the bazaar in nearby Bahrain city.
“My mother bundled up our clothes but we lost all our household items,” says Qamar. “Because I was taking care of my younger brothers and sisters, I was only able to grab my schoolbag. My entire collection of storybooks and cricket bats washed away in the flood.”
Qamar’s father says that two days after his house was destroyed, a relief agency accompanied by government officials came to Girlagan and asked them several questions. They promised to deliver emergency aid through helicopters. However, no relief has been provided to the survivors of Girlagan yet.
A few days ago, Save the Children’s teams assessed damages and identified the neediest families in UC Bahrain and UC Mankyal in Swat for distribution of tents with bamboo and a shelter kit for setting up temporary housing structures. Since they had lost their home, Qamar’s family was immediately selected to receive shelter support.
“We left Girlagay yesterday and walked for four hours to reach Fatehpur,” he adds. “We arrived here early this morning and were surprised to find tents and bamboos being distributed to those who had been selected in Girlagan and other villages of UC Bahrain.”
After checking their national identity cards, Save the Children handed over shelter items to Qamar and his father and also provided a small amount of cash to assist them in transport of the materials.
“Thank God that we can make our own temporary house now,” Qamar’s father says. “This is a blessing for my family.”
These are the first relief items that Qamar’s family has received.
Says Qamar: “I am now hopeful that we can rebuild our home and continue our lives as before.”