"When the water came,..." - Historic floods in Pakistan
By Fayyaz Shah, Malteser International's Country Coordinator for Pakistan
"When the water came, we didn't have time to take anything with us. Our whole house was flooded. Some people in our village drowned or died because their house collapsed on top of them as the waters rushed through the village. My husband and I saved only our lives. We lost everything else, our livestock, our house, our possessions."
I meet Veeru, an elderly lady, during my project visit to Sindh province in the southeast of my home country, Pakistan. More than three months have already passed since the flood took everything from her and millions of other people. We are sitting outdoors in her small village of Adee Paro. Veeru is wearing a deep blue robe with an orange pattern. It stands out against the light brown, muddy ground, littered with boulders and branches, where Veeru and the other villagers have built makeshift shelters out of tarps and stakes. Not far away, the stagnant water glistens in the sun. Still, much of the water has not drained and is now a dangerous breeding ground for mosquitoes and disease." An old woman from our village drowned in the floods. We didn't know where to bury her because we couldn't find a dry place. We had to go to a hill outside the village to give her a dignified burial." I hear quite a few stories like this during my monitoring visit to Sindh. They break my heart and at the same time give me an important insight into the scale of this disaster, which is actually beyond any imagination.
These are stories of climate change
More than 1,700 people lost their lives in Pakistan as a result of the floods - most of them in the worst-hit provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. In total, around 33 million people have been affected by these floods. In all the years I have been working for Malteser International as country coordinator in Pakistan, I have never experienced such a flood disaster. We Pakistanis are experiencing first-hand the danger that climate change poses to humanity. As recently as May and June, we had to contend with extreme temperatures of up to 50 degrees in parts of the country. Glaciers melted, rivers filled up. Then in July and August, heavy monsoon rains brought such enormous masses of water that rivers burst their banks. The dry soils could not absorb the water. The resulting flash floods and landslides destroyed not only villages. Roads, bridges, fields, crops, livestock were swept away. People have no stocks of food to fall back on. Along with the livestock, they lost their livelihood. Many people, like Veeru, slept for weeks on the side of the road under open skies, being bitten by mosquitoes, drinking dirty water and hoping for some form of help. Pakistan alone cannot shoulder the consequences of this disaster. It needs international solidarity and support. I am glad that with Malteser International and in cooperation with our local partner organization, the Sindh Rural Support Organization (SRSO), we are able to offer urgently needed help to at least a fraction of the affected people.
We provide emergency relief and help with reconstruction
Like Veeru: "Malteser International and SRSO reached us when we didn't have a single rupee left. They distributed food packs with flour, rice, oil and salt. We were so grateful to finally receive help and be able to feed the children again. We also received water canisters and water purification tablets, mosquito nets and hygiene items. A mobile medical team came directly to the village and set up a camp for a few days. They provided free supplies and distributed medicines to the people. This was such a relief for all of us. Many already had malaria or other diseases." In addition to the relief items and medical care, we also distributed cash to families through our local partner. Veeru tells me that she and her neighbors will use it to buy small stores, new livestock and rebuild their homes. Seeing people in Pakistan moving forward and making plans for the future fills me with hope.