16 Aug 2010
Fighting floods in Swat
by M. Rehman from Swat
The already struggling people of Swat were trying to rebuild their lives after the destruction caused by the Taliban insurgency and military operations. More than one million people were forced to leave their homes and moved to camps in different cities of the province. The intense battle between the Taliban and Pakistani army caused big destruction to the lives, livelihoods and properties of the people. The insurgency and counter-insurgency operations also caused big damages to infrastructure, as hundreds of schools, hospitals, houses, hotels, restaurants, shops and official buildings were destroyed. After the defeat of the Taliban, people returned to their houses with the hope that they would again be able to live a normal life.
Even before Swat could be freed from the monster of terrorism, the area is now facing yet another disaster, in the shape of the floods. The recent torrential rains have played havoc in Mingora, Babuzai, Barikot, Kalam, Charbagh, Bahrain, Khwazakhela and Matta. According to estimates, these are the worst floods the area has seen since 1929. About half a million people in the area are desperately waiting for relief to come their way. Around 10,000 houses and 2,500 shops have been completely washed away and 17,000 houses and 5,000 shops severely damaged. More than 120 hotels have been damaged in the popular tourist towns of Kalam, Bahrain and Madian.
More than 100 small and medium-sized bridges and roads have been swept away, thus isolating it from the surrounding areas. All the seven main cities of the valley have also been cut off from each other. The 40km-long patch between Madian and Kalam has eroded. Acres and acres of agricultural land have been flooded.
Thousands of women, children and the elderly have been forced to live in the open under the skies; they have no place to hide as rains are continuing. There is no milk or food for the children, who are crying out of hunger. Thousands of people are crying out for help and relief but no attention has been paid to them by the authorities. People are starving, the prices of food and other basic items are skyrocketing - as profiteers are hoarding food items, petrol and gas. There is a severe shortage of medicines. The electricity supply has been severely affected, as the two main lines in Chakdara have broken down. Electricity in most areas has still not been restored, even after two weeks
The district administration is almost non-existent in the flood affected areas of Swat. Neither has it set up any relief camps or proposed any price control mechanism. Consequently, the scarcity of patrol and gas has hugely affected the transport system.
Some 0.6 million people in Mingora city are facing severe water shortages as tube wells are not functioning. Locals say the area’s influential and rich have taken control of a large number of generators provided by the local authorities. They allege that elites are using them for personal use. Gas was restored in the Mingora city after five days. In the absence of relief offered by the government and charities, the local people are working on a ‘self-help’ basis. The immediate task is to reconstruct bridges and roads, restore communications links, electricity and evacuate the stranded people from the devastated area. Many could die if food is not provided to the affected people.
Humanitarian crisis looms in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa
by Faisal Khattak from Peshawar
Even though eight days have passed since devastating floods hit Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, thousands of people are crying for food, shelter and drinking water as a food crisis is looming in the flood-hit districts. Thousands of people were marooned in flooded villages, and needed immediate evacuation and food supply. I visited, along with group of volunteers, a few devastated localities in Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa. When we spoke to the affected people, they angrily said, “our women and children have been swept away, and people hungry and thirsty, while ministers are flying in helicopters…”.
Camp Korona, a village of about 400 houses, situated near the Peshawar Motorway, was almost completely destroyed in the torrential rains and flash floods. A few houses were in good condition, while the majority had been completely destroyed. The people had taken refuge on the motorway, and have been sleeping outdoors, without any government relief. Similarly, about 500 houses had been completely destroyed in Momin Ghari, a suburb area of Peshawar.
Muhammad Awais, sitting along with his 11-member family on the motorway, told us that he had rescued his family members. “Now like a beggar, I am asking people to provide food for my family”, he said. Strongly condemning the government, he said that like him, no one was getting any government relief. He said their destroyed houses were still full of floodwater.
Awais and others questioned the relief activities of the government, asking that if they were without any relief near Peshawar, what would be the conditions of the other thousands, in places like Charsada and Nowshera?
Similarly, people in Larama, another flood-hit area of Peshawar, strongly criticised the government for not providing any relief to them, even after 8 days. Residents of the Larama area told us that they had been receiving relief from philanthropists and charity organisations, but have not received any relief from the government so far. A majority of flood-affected people in Peshawar has been shifted to government schools, but even there, the people were complaining of a shortage of food and health facilities. People were seen evacuating luggage from their destroyed houses in Peshawar, as the government has not provided them with basic necessities, including water coolers and tents, to name a few.
Thousands of people, including women and children, have taken shelter on roof-tops and nearby mountains in Nowshera. Most parts of the Nowshera district, including Nowshera city, have been affected and thousands are still marooned.
Anger is growing, due to the slow pace of relief work and delays in evacuation. Demonstrations were held in Pabi and Taro Jabba area,s with protesters demanding food, drinking water and shelter.
Even the devastating flood has made nearly one million people homeless, the KP government has distributed only 200 tents each in Tank, Lakki Marwat and Bannu, and 40 in Peshawar! The government has only distributed food items to 4,950 families in Charsada, 1,000 in Tank, 2,000 in DI Khan, 300 in Bannu, and 600 families in Peshawar.
At a relief camp, set up by a local trader in Khandar village outside Nowshera, women and children stumbled towards a makeshift camp to get medical attention from Dr Khalid Khan, with problems including skin disease, acute diarrhea and fever.
Massive destruction can be seen in Nowshera. Petrol pumps, homes, shops, and markets were under water. The stink of rotting animal carcasses was everywhere. KP Health Minister, Syed Zahir Shah, estimated that about 100,000 people, mostly children, were suffering from illnesses such as gastroenteritis and cholera. Aid workers working in the area said people do not have drinking water or food. They said there have been some visible signs of waterborne diseases. They have warned that death toll was likely to rise further as they are reach inaccessible areas. At a camp set up by the army for around 700 families in Nowshera, women and children ran after vehicles bringing food and water, pushing and shouting.
People at the camp said there were no proper toilets or bathrooms and the only respite from the crushing heat and humidity was plastic hand fans. Most of them fled in the clothes they were wearing and many children roamed around naked. The people complained that there was no proper food distribution system in place and that, “sometimes they throw food at us as if we are animals and not humans”.
Affected people staged a protest in Nowshera over the lack of food and other relief goods.