Sajjad’s New Home

Friday, August 13, 2010 

Save the Children's Reporting Coordinator in Pakistan

Sajjad desk  Sajjad, 14, lives in the suburb of Jail in the city of Bahrain, Swat. Jail is an urban locality of more than 50 households and lies on the banks of the River Swat. Besides residential houses, it is full of commercial plazas, restaurants, hotels and guesthouses catering to tourists from all over Pakistan. Sajjad is the eldest of five siblings and studies in Class 7 at Swat Education Complex, a private school in Bahrain.   

Sajjad's father works as a school teacher and owns an apple farm near River Swat. He wishes Sajjad to excel in his education and study in a university.  

A year ago, Sajjad’s family faced great hardship when they were displaced from their homes by the conflict between the Pakistan army and the Taliban in Swat. Sajjad’s father could not earn a single rupee for months since schools were closed and the apple farm stagnated in his absence. However, they had quickly rejuvenated their lives after the conflict ceased.  

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 floodwaters, causing widespread destruction of life and property. Bahrain was one of the worst affected cities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – entire streets and hamlets were washed away within 24 hours. The suburb of Jail was terribly devastated by the watery onslaught.  

Sajjad signing up  “It had been raining for two days when we were told that Jail was surrounded by water,” recounted Sajjad. “Our neighbors were hastily running uphill. We collected all our precious goods and moved into an uncle’s house in a safer area of Bahrain. Later that day we found that our house had been destroyed by the flooded river.”  

The next morning, Sajjad’s father was shocked to see his entire apple farm ruined by murky floodwater. Since then, he has fallen ill and remains depressed throughout the day.   

Sajjad said he lost all his books, clothes and playing equipment. With the efforts of notable community members, food rations are being distributed in Bahrain but they are not enough for Sajjad and his host uncle’s families. 

“I do not know when we will ever have a place of our own,” said Sajjad.  

Save the Children began assisting flood survivors immediately after the rains ceased in Swat. Separate teams assessed damage and identified the neediest families in the worst-affected areas including Bahrain. Save the Children first selected families who had lost their homes to receive tents with bamboo and a shelter kit for setting up temporary housing structures. Since they had lost their home, Sajjad’s family received shelter support.   

Sajjad bucket  Accompanied by his uncle, Sajjad traveled for five hours to reach Save the Children’s distribution center. They were among the first in line to receive the promised tent, bamboo, buckets, water containers and other shelter items. His family was eagerly awaiting his return knowing that they could then move into their own space and begin rebuilding their lives.  

An excited Sajjad said, “I know these things will not replace my home but at least it will be my family’s first step toward a new home.”          



Learn more about our emergency response to the flooding in Pakistan

Help Us Respond to the Pakistan Flood Emergency. Please Donate Now.

New Hope for Qamar

Thursday, August 12, 2010 

Save the Children's Reporting Coordinator in Pakistan

QamarQamar, 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.  GIRLAGAY

“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.  

Qamar“The day before yesterday, I met Save the Children team,” says Qamar’s father. “I answered all their questions but was ambivalent about their promise to provide temporary housing material. 

“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.”

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Learn more about our emergency response to the flooding in Pakistan

Help Us Respond to the Pakistan Flood Emergency. Please Donate Now

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.