Pakistan floods: Voices of People From Sindh Province

Pakistanis are facing the worst flood of the century. Many lost their loved ones, houses, crops, livelihoods and belongings. Oxfam's Tariq Malik is traveling around the country.

Here he presents the voices of flood-hit people from Kot Mithan, a district of Sindh Province.

After the flood in Kot Mithan and surrounding villages the number of homeless families has significantly increased in district Rajanpur. According to the residents union council of Kot Mithan has more than forty thousand population with an average household of 7-9. Situated along the west of River Indus flood is not an unusual phenomenon for the residents of Kot Mithan.

"The unusual thing about Kot Mithan flood is that this time it has made its way into the town. Even the shrine of Khawaja Ghulam Farid (a great Seraiki poet) is not safe anymore. There is all water in the graveyard back of the shrine. We have seen many floods come and pass by the dikes around the town but this time it was altogether different. It is something we were not expecting," said Dr. Najamudin Malik, a resident of Kot Mithan who runs a private hospital.

"Do you know why this happened," Dr. Malik asked looking around vaguely and started speaking again as he was talking to himself. "There are two reasons. Firstly, over the embankment in the south-east of town flows a canal which we call Farid Minor. The town was flooded because the canal water made its way from under the ground. Secondly, the chief engineer of irrigation department had no idea of water pressure nor had the department any means to ascertain the pressure level," he reasoned. "If past experience is something to go by, I think, the flood is likely to flow by the dikes and will not enter the town," Dr Malik said quoting the chief engineer.

A few yards away from the green belt, where some of the people from Kot Mithan villages had taken refuge under the open cloudy sky, two Rescue 1122 ambulances rushed to the filling station and a screeching sound alerted everyone around including the children who, somehow, had fallen asleep. I should take a brisk walk, I thought, to ask the Rescue team few questions before they leave. Coming from district Rajanpur they were leaving for Kot Mithan. "Five days ago we asked people to vacate the town but they did not. We asked them to shift their belongings at some safer place. Only a few of them did so, only a few. Most of them said that 'we know the river, it can't be so cruel, it won't affect us'," said Haq Nawaz, shift in-charge Rescue 1122 complaining of villagers' non-cooperation with his team during rescue efforts.

"You know," said Dr. Malik when asked about the 'non-cooperation' of villagers and why they refused to vacate their homes and farms. "Firstly, they were not expecting it just as the chief engineer was not expecting it," he added. "In addition to that the cotton crop is almost ripened. It would have taken a month or so had there been a normal situation. For a cultivator it is difficult to leave the land he has tilled with his sweat and blood," he reasoned.

Earlier in the day, during a visit to the relief camps established in Kot Mithan by a local organization with the support of an international donor agency where different departments of district governments had also set their stalls. Mainly established in government buildings the relief camps were good but not enough. For example, the camp established in Government school, opposite the union council office, presented a grim picture. The school courtyard had become a pound as there was no drainage lane. The school building had four rooms, a veranda and a small courtyard which housed around 300 people.

"We are from Wasti Hayderabad. There are hundred houses in (Wasti Choki Araein', Bait Mughal) our village. We belong to Gopang (sub-caste) family and are here for last two days. We had to pay Rs 100 to a private boat-owner for each person. Most of our relatives are still there. The day we moved from our village we had nothing to eat and you know well that children can't sleep if they do not eat well. For the last two days we are provided with meal twice a day by some people (or Help/Oxfam??)," said Khuda Bakhash.

Dr. Shaheen Sadiq, an employee of the district health department, told that many children had fever, skin infections and rashes all over. "There are many diarrhea patients. A couple of gynecology related cases which have already been referred to the Rural Health Center," she said. She told that there were also some patients of jaundice and malaria and some were suffering from chest infection (upper respiratory track). She also told that most of the people had been vaccinated for snake-bite and dog-bite.

Another stall was set up by the district government's department of livestock and dairy development to cater for the health and food needs of animals. "We have been distributing bundles of fodder to all families for their animals. We have also vaccinated many cows, buffalos and goats," said Shehzad Hussian, veterinary assistant who was posted in Kot Mithan on what he called 'flood duty'. While talking to District Livestock Officer Dr. Muhammad Anwar on phone the call got disconnected as he was asked to comment about the shortage of fodder bundles for the animals.

Commandant Border Military Police (BMP) and acting District Deputy Officer Revenue (DDOR) Hameed Rehmani said they were busy helping people vacate homes and reach safer places. Rehmani claimed to have set up 40 camps but they were nowhere to be seen as most of the people had taken refuge along the Kot Mithan road and had no tents or safety against the weather.

An hour before sunset in the relief camps of Kot Mithan, more people arrived in the already over-crowded camps. Most of them came from the following villages: Wastu Chakani, Wasti Araein, Wasti Laghari, Wasti Laal, Wasti Gul Khani, Wasti Kallar and Wasti Mohib Ali.

Tonight, hours after a fresh wave of flood-affected people came to the relief camps, those who had been there for the last two days were instructed to leave within an hour of the newcomers' arrival. They would have hardly adjusted as they were warned to leave the relief camps too.

by Mubashar Hasan of Oxfam

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