Pakistan floods: Why soap is among the first items Oxfam distributes

As the devastating floods sweep through Pakistan people have little time to save themselves and their children, never mind household items or the basics for daily life.

"The water came very fast. We could only save our children, ourselves and some clothes… we didn’t even have time to save some crockery and other things," says Razia, mother of two young children, Arbeli (4) and Nadia (1). Now Raiza is worried about their health. After talking about the future she tells us about what they need now. "We need soap to wash our clothes. The children’s clothes get very dirty and there are a lot of flies here… every day there are lots of flies and they keep landing on the children – I’m worried about their health."

Around the increasing number of camps are people reporting the amount of sickness there is, especially diarrhea. "The children have a lot of skin diseases due to the water, fever and diarrhea…."

All the parents express concern about their children and the problems they have in trying to stay clean.

One of the first things people ask for is soap

Oxfam is distributing hygiene kits to over 57,000 families (benefiting around 400,000 people) in Sindh province. A day before the team distributes the kits they register those living in the camps and issue them with tokens, which are handed over for the hygiene kits. This ensures that the right people, those who have been affected by the floods, get the kits.

Another mother, Sakina, explains, "I’m washing the pots with water and ash at the moment because we don’t have soap… I’d prefer to use soap – it’s better for cleaning, but when we left our homes we didn’t have time to pack many things except a few pots. We don’t even have soap to wash our clothes. It’s hard to keep things clean, so I’m pleased that we will be getting soap and these other things from Oxfam."

Effective and inexpensive

Each hygiene kit contains fifteen bars of soap for personal use and several bars of soap for washing clothes.

So if you ever wondered why Oxfam, in all this devastation, is giving out soap, then maybe this will explain why:

Hand washing with soap is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, which together are responsible for the deaths of over 3.5 million children under the age of 5 every year. On current evidence, washing hands with soap can reduce the risk of diarrheal diseases by 42- 47% and interventions to promote hand washing might save a million lives.

In an emergency simple bars of soap for washing hands, bathing and washing clothes keeps people healthy and helps restore dignity.

Read more

Donate to Oxfam's Pakistan flood appeal

What Oxfam is doing in Pakistan

Pakistan floods: The situation and Oxfam's emergency response

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