Surveying the Aftermath and Providing Relief to Communities in Upper Swat

August 3, 2010 

Save the Children's Reporting Coordinator in Pakistan

For the past two days, Save the Children teams have been working round the clock to provide immediate relief to the flood-affected communities in Swat Valley, Pakistan. As the water has begun to recede, the sheer scale of this disaster is coming to light. Every time we receive news of the numbers affected, we become more and more committed to respond to this crisis with all our strength and capacity.    

Yesterday, two teams of Save the Children staff ventured in different directions to learn the full extent of the damages and map out accessible routes for provision of shelter kits and food rations. One team crossed over to the western side of River Swat into UC Tirat by sitting inside a small cart pulled through a simple rope-pulley apparatus over a fifty meter drop with raging waters below. They learned that thousands of acres of farmland have been ruined and vast numbers of livestock have been swept away by the flood waters. Food shortages are becoming more acute every day – a single bag of wheat is now being sold for 1,100 rupees (double the usual price).     


Reuters/Faisal Mahmood, courtesy www.alertnet.org A child lay crying in a hammock after flood victims shifted to camps to take refuge after their homes were destroyed in Nowshera. The worst floods in memory in Pakistan have affected more than 3 million people so far and claimed the lives of more than 1,400 people.
Reuters/Faisal Mahmood, courtesy www.alertnet.org

The other team reached Madyan and attended a meeting of government officials, army and community influentials to discuss the emergency response. The market in Madyan now only has a few days stock of rice, cooking oil and lentils remaining. Attempts are being made to control the prices and keep them at affordable levels. There are also plans to transport essential food items on mules from UC Fatehpur.    

The team also met people who had been walking from Bahrain for half a day to reach Madyan. They described the worsening situation in the city and the urgent need for food and health care. A few families had walked for two days from Kalam – the farthest most affected city in Upper Swat. They were hosted overnight by strangers in the village of Asreeth. Their stories from Kalam were published in Pakistan’s newspaper today, you can read them here.  

Save the Children began distribution of shelter items to families who have lost their homes in UC Fatehpur. However, heavy rains took place today, stalling the distribution process since the beneficiaries were walking over hills and dirt paths to reach our center. Save the Children been selected as one of the partners with the World Food Program (WFP) to begin food distribution in Swat.   

Reuters/Adrees Latif, courtesy www.alertnet.org

A family carries relief supplies on train tracks back to their homes after flood waters receded in Nowshera, located in Pakistan' s northwest Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province.
Reuters/Faisal Mahmood, courtesy www.alertnet.org

I’ve also been speaking non-stop on the phone from 9 a.m. till 9 p.m. with various TV networks and journalists from around the world to report on the situation in Swat. A CNN team was supposed to arrive today but was held back due to bad weather conditions. As they say in Paksitan InshAllah (God willing), the international community will fulfill its obligations for the relief of the flood-affected people in time.  

Assessing Flood Damage in Upper Swat, Pakistan

August 2, 2010 

Save the Children's Reporting Coordinator in Pakistan

I arrived in Saidu Sharif, Swat, last Sunday to conduct a training for local organizations. Just two days later, unprecedented monsoon rains caused widespread destruction here. 

The beautiful tourist areas of Kalam, Bahrain, and Miandam, as well as other parts of Swat, have been severely damaged, with entire villages being swept away. Most villages and even cities have had no electricity for four days, ATMs are offline, and only one cellular network is working. None of the water pumping stations is functioning so nearly everyone is without running water. 

People evacuating from Madyan to safer areas in southern Swat

Families from Madyan, Pakistan, an area hit hard by the floods,
evacuate to safer areas in southern Swat. Taxis and buses (bottom
right) are available to transport people in areas where the roads are
blocked. Photo Credit:  Save the Children

I went with some colleagues to Upper Swat yesterday to help assess the damage.  When we reached Fatehpur, the road suddenly ended in a 100 meter drop off to the River Swat below. It seemed like an entire part of the road, as well as houses, had been scooped out with a gigantic cup. This is the only road leading to Miandam, Bahrain and Kalam, where thousands of residents and tourists from all over Pakistan are stranded. 

We left our car and climbed a small hill and walked through the tight lanes of a village. There were large groups of families coming back from Madyan, warning us of the terrible situation ahead. We were delighted to find children with coolers and buckets full of natural spring water providing free drinks to the travelers crossing their village.

Food Prices Increase with Threat of Stocks Running Low

Entering Madyan city we saw relief camps established by the army. Some men mentioned that nearly all the houses in Chel, Shanko and other villages had been destroyed. We learned that food prices had increased dramatically in the past two days, since new supplies were not reaching the markets. Survivors said they couldn’t afford to purchase enough food for their families, and shopkeepers said they were afraid their stocks might run out in the next three to four days. 

The only health facility in Madyan, along with five primary schools, a high school, and a college have been completely destroyed by the flood. The remains of these buildings are nothing more than a few walls jutting out from the raging waves of the River Swat. 

Our long journey back to our vehicle in Saidu Sharif involved two treks and two bartered rides till we reached the first break in the road where our car was parked. On the last hill, we helped a middle-aged man carrying a large bundle of food supplies, his aged mother, and his blind son, walk through the village and climb down to the road. He had lost all of his livestock in the flood. He was taking his family to a relative’s house, but hoped to return soon to salvage whatever was left of his home.  

Large Road Crevasse Strands Motorists Overnight  

Near Fizaghat, where we stopped in the morning, there was a never ending line of cars. We learned that a small pothole in the road had widened into a large crevasse which was being filled by army trucks. Since it would have taken the entire night to complete the work, we began walking back towards Saidu Sharif.  Using our cell phones to light the pitch black road, we walked for more than an hour to reach Saidu Sharif. I felt strangely relieved to return to the safety and comfort of Save the Children’s office, but was saddened to witness the flood’s devastation, which had displaced so many children and families from their homes.  

For more information on Save the Children’s response to the Pakistan floods, click here