Little Ishrat Finds Shelter

Thursday, August 26, 2010 

Save the Children's Reporting Coordinator in Pakistan

Ishrat-1Ishrat, a 6-year-old Pakistani girl, calls the village of Brahimwala home. Brahimwala is situated near one of the several canals which irrigates the wheat, corn and rice fields of district Muzafargarh with water from the River Indus.

In late July, epic monsoon rains caused flash floods in the River Indus. Vast torrents of the flood waters totally collapsed the banks of the river in southern Punjab, especially in the districts of Muzafargarh, Rajanpur and Dera Ghazi Khan.

"We heard in the late afternoon that a massive flood was coming towards Brahimwala." said Ishrat’s father, Talib, a sharecropper. Ill-prepared for the disaster, they grabbed some precious items such as food and clothing and rushed towards the city of Muzafargarh.

"My mother grabbed me as we ran out of the village," Ishrat remembered.

That evening the village was struck with flood waters at speeds of 30mph.Evacuation The mud and brick houses collapsed within minutes as the entire village was submerged in six feet of water. Ishrat and her family were part of the mass exodus of 300,000 people who fled to Muzafargarh by motorized vehicle, donkey-carts and on foot in search of safer ground

"We walked for many hours that night and slept under a tree." Ishrat said.

In the next few days, the government, armed forces and local charities had set up temporary shelters and began providing the displaced families with cooked food.

However, Talib said, the distribution of food was chaotic, “we were lucky to receive even one meal a day."

Just when they were expecting the waters to recede, approximately 700,000 displaced people in Muzaffargarh were shocked to hear that they had to evacuate the city. A single road was used by these people to reach neighboring Multan. Ishrat and her family moved into a generous villager’s home near Multan city – 12  people in three rooms. They survived for 10 days on the handful of food rations provided by their hosts. When they heard that the flood waters finally receded from Brahimwala, they immediately returned home.

However, the arrival home was quite painful.
Ishrat-4

"Everything I owned is either destroyed or covered with mud." Talib said. "My share of the harvested wheat is ruined and my home has entirely collapsed."

As the rains continued, Ishrat and her family were hungry and had no roof over their heads. Devoid of all possessions and savings, the family was destitute and vulnerable.
Save the Children’s teams began to assess damages and select the neediest families to receive food rations and temporary housing items in Muzafargargh district. Due to extensive flood damage, Brahimwala’s residents were one of the first areas selected for emergency support.Ishrat-3"The people came to our village and asked us questions," Ishrat said. "They promised to give us some things to make our home."

Talib was delighted the morning Save the Children handed him a tent, blankets, jerry cans and buckets for his family. Food rations — including 170 pounds of wheat, 30 packets of micronutrient biscuits for his children and 5 liters of cooking oil — were provided the following day.

Ishrat ran around the rumble of her home clutching a water bucket, excited that she will now have a home.

"I have no words to describe how grateful I am. We have a roof over our heads and enough to eat so I don’t feel hungry anymore."

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.