Women and children brave death and disease: Pakistan floods 2011

My field visit from Hyderabad to Mirpur Khas was like déjà vu. As we traveled to selected Union Councils (UCs) of Mirpur Khas (Digri, Jodo, Nau Kot and Fazil Phambiriya) I saw acres and acres of land on which cotton and sugar cane should have been growing, now inundated. Hundreds of people recently displaced because of the monsoon rains and consequential flooding running after trucks and vehicles for help; mostly women, children and elderly taking shelter under makeshift tents on the road side.

Surrounded by contaminated, mosquito infested water, I noted an average of fifteen people and livestock under one tent. We could see open defecation and animal carcass everywhere. The sad truth is that displaced people have to use the same contaminated water to wash and cook, increasing their risk to water-borne diseases.

Health and livelihoods threatened

I saw many pregnant and lactating mothers also suffering in the tents. Children are malnourished and pale, like one would see in images of drought-affected countries. Health conditions are very serious; women and children in particular are at a severe risk of contracting life-threatening diseases like malaria, dengue and diarrhea. With no proper nutrition or medical facilities, these women are fighting for their lives and for their babies!

Speaking to a woman in the tent, she vents with tears in her eyes, “We have lost livestock and our crops have been destroyed. This is our biggest source of livelihood. What are we to do now?”

Another woman in the tent said, “We haven’t received any food items except for some flour distributed 3 days ago. We see a few trucks of relief goods but none of them stops here, they just pass by.”

Displaced twice in one year

No camps have been established by an agency or government other than one in the main city of Mirpur Khas. The situation is miserable for these people who have been displaced twice in one year, with no hope to return back to their destroyed homes until the water recedes for at least three months. People in the tents are in immediate need of clean water, food, medical facilities and shelter.

Oxfam’s team visited this area to observe the conditions of the affected communities – we have already started providing water, sanitation and hygiene services in four UCs of Mirpur Khas with local partners. The scale of this crisis and its impact on the women, children and elderly require many more organizations to mobilize at least basic resources quickly! Quickly, before it’s too late!

Read more

Watch the slideshow: Oxfam responds to fresh flooding in Pakistan

Read Neva Khan's blog: Pakistan: This disaster should not have been unexpected

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