We have heard from Islamabad that there are rumors the flood is receding in Shikarpur and other areas in Sindh Province. We decide to try to go and see.
If true then our teams are going to have to start planning how we can support people returning to their villages – which in effect means we will need to give two different types of aid: one for people who are displaced and won’t be able to return home quickly; and another for those returning to destroyed homes and livelihoods. I head out of town with Zalynn and Abidah from our livelihoods team.
Once in the rural areas we soon see that the water has only gone down by a few inches. There’s a very long way to go. We stop and have a brief chat with some people, living under plastic sheeting, close to the roadside. A local man tells us it will be at least a month before the waters go down to normal levels. We go as far as we can before the road disappears under water. The floodwater here doesn’t look dramatic; no gushing, roaring torrents, strong currents sweeping all before it. This is a plain area and the water lies flat and still.
An eerie air
A row of telegraph poles stretch out into to the distance, strangely marooned, casting shadows in the still water surrounding them. There are remains of mud houses crumbling and dissolving in the water. In places we can see small green shoots poking out of the water but these are not the green shoots of recovery or hope – these are the rice fields. The crop, just weeks from being harvested, has been totally lost.
Rice is the main crop in this area and with only one crop a year the flood is a devastating blow after months and months of hard work. There will not be another rice harvest until this time next year, and only then if people can return home, are able to clear the land, buy seed and plant in time. In the meantime, the question is what do they live on? How do they earn a living? Where do they live?
In the distance we see a few people living on a small patch of land. They are probably staying there to protect what remains of their property and livestock. Otherwise, what was once a thriving village has a slightly eerie air. Walking back up the road to the car all that can be heard are the birds…
This trip has made me realize the enormity of the situation here in Sindh. Not only do we need to help people immediately, but also as they start to return home to rebuild their lives. Governments, NGOs like Oxfam and the UN need to be prepared to assist the people here in Pakistan for months and years to come.
Pakistan floods: The situation and Oxfam's emergency response