Marvin Parvez, Church World Service Pakistan/Afghanistan director, reflects on the politicisation of humanitarian aid in the region in December 2010. http://www.actalliance.org/stories/pakistan-take-the-politics-out-of-humanitarian-aid
From 21 July 2010, widespread and unusually heavy monsoon rains hit most parts of Pakistan. Flooding has since worsened and by mid August had caused damaged in one fifth of the country.
Over 2000 people were reported dead and at least 20 million have been affected. Up to 6 million people are homeless.Homes, bridges, roads, lifestock, crops, hospitals and livelhoods have been swept away. With crop lands in the Punjab, Pakistan's bread basket, destroyed there will be a national foood crisis.
CWS partners through ACT Alliance are distributing food, water, tents, and other non-food items (kitchen kits, hygiene kits, mosquito nets) and providing health and hygiene assistance.
CWS Programmes Coordinator, Nick Clarke, was seconded by our partner Chuch World Service Pakistan/Afghanistan (CWS P/A) to assist with their response. He filed updates while in Pakistan. Read his reports here.
As many as 800,000 people were under the open skies during the Eid holiday this past weekend. As floodwaters have receded in the northern parts of the country, towns and villages in the southern provinces are still being submerged. The scale of this humanitarian tragedy is far impacting and the larger challenges are yet to begin.
An estimated seven million people will be homeless for quite some time according to recent predictions. Immediate relief is still needed while the approaching winter season, particularly in the northern areas, causes great concern. Dr. Qamar Zaman, CWS-P/A’s Medical Coordinator, worries about coping with rising disease challenges. He shares, “Snow begins as early as October in parts of the north. Winter is approaching, and with freezing temperatures, there are a greater number of cases of lower respiratory tract infection.”
During the flood emergency, CWS-P/A’s health team reports that acute respiratory infections are the second most common ailment; diarrhea is number one. Insufficient nutritional intake and food shortages will put more people, especially children and the elderly, at risk during the winter months. With close to 500,000 women expected to give birth within six months, proper facilities are required to provide mothers and newborns well-equipped health services and protection from the freezing temperatures.
Adequate shelter, blankets, warm clothes, and other winterization items to help the affected population survive the harsh winter are immediately required. For millions of people, the transition from homelessness and joblessness to recovery will begin in the midst of the winter season. In addition to meeting special winter needs, early recovery initiatives are also required so that families are able to start regaining their independence through restoration of livelihood and development of income earning opportunities.
CWS-P/A’s food and NFI distribution is ongoing. To date, 8,733 food packages, the equivalent of 1,222 tons, have been distributed. Completed and planned food distribution reaches 91,200 individuals. Distribution of 2,500 NFIs has taken place; completed and planned NFI distribution reaches 75,500 individuals. CWS-P/A plans to provide an additional 3,000 families with food and non-food items in Sukkur and Thatta. The organization is also planning for early recovery assistance through meeting health and livelihood needs. CWS-P/A identifies three early recovery Construction Trade Training Centers, similar to the initiative developed for recovery of the 2005 earthquake which will help build the capacity within communities for reconstruction. Without resources, farmers and owners of small shops will face a longer period of food insecurity. Similar to its food security initiative for IDPs, CWS-P/A plans to initiate cash for work, vouchers, and cash grants to help reestablish agricultural livelihood.
CWS-P/A continues its health efforts by providing preventive and curative treatment for flood affected families. At present 3 mobile health units are operational in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa providing services in the districts of Swat, Kohistan, and Mansehra. Two additional mobile health units are planned in Khairpur and Sukkur in Sindh.CWS-P/A Communication Office
The flood affected people of Pakistan are not only experiencing difficulties with survival challenges but also in their struggle to stay secure. As people vacate their towns and villages in search of dry land, several security concerns arise. There have been reports of a few families being robbed on their way to camps. Television channels also reported cases where dacoits looted houses after flood survivors left their important possessions behind when they evacuated. Consequently, many families feared moving or refused to initially leave their homes because of the likelihood of robberies.
However, these concerns are not just about belongings and tangible items but rather importantly about a safe environment for women and children. In such large scale catastrophes, women and children become vulnerable in terms of security, exploitation, and abuses. Women in Pakistan also suffer more during emergencies because of the cultural restrictions placed on them. In most cases, only men travel to distribution points to collect relief items because women are in the practice of remaining segregated from men. During this flood emergency, individuals must travel, in some cases up to half a day’s walk, to reach distribution points due to blocked or destroyed roadways. Security is an issue for both women who travel these long distances as well as women who remain in their villages while male family members make the journey to collect relief items. There are very few ways for women to protect themselves without proper shelter while their male family members are away. Also, there are a few cases of women dying in trampling at distribution sites, particularly in camps. Due to unorganized distribution, men, women, and children chase after relief items; many people get injured and a few have died.
CWS-P/A’s Rabia Wasid describes the insecurity faced by women and children, “Media has paid little attention to these issues; however, there are real concerns. Cases of rape and kidnapping are on the rise. Mothers do not send their young daughters to get food or other relief items in camps because of increasing reports of exploitation and prostitution surrounding relief goods.”
Thousands of women are living in overcrowded camps and tents, damaged houses, or makeshift wood and straw shelters. These conditions make women easily accessible by anyone who intends to do harm and vulnerable to protection issues. Although few cases are being reported in the media, the number of cases of rape, prostitution, and kidnapping shared by various organizations at coordination and cluster meetings is increasing, particularly in meetings for protection issues. Very little has been done to protect women and children from exploitation and abuse; if measures are not taken to protect them, then the number of cases will drastically rise once human traffickers begin preying on vulnerable women and children.Prepared by CWS-P/A Communication Office
On August 21, nineteen of 23 districts in Sindh were announced as calamity-hit regions by the provincial government as the flood waters posed serious threats to Hyderabad and Thatta. About 150,000 people were forced to move to higher ground as floodwaters submerged more towns and villages. Exceptionally high flooding has persisted at Kotri; the Flood Forecasting Division (FFD) has warned that this will continue for five to eight days. The estimated level declared has been 700,000 to 800,000 cusecs for five to eight days with high flood of around 600,000 cusecs for at least another ten days.
Media sources have shared that a total of 4 million people have been affected in Sindh with over 600,000 people in relief camps. As the second wave of floods hit the province, the cities of Shahdakot, Qabu Saeed Khan, Mero Khan, and Sajawal amongst others were evacuated with rising flood waters from Garhi Kheru.
In the struggle to save towns and villages reports revealed that people started digging gaps in an embankment to let the water get away. This has resulted in enraged landlords blaming neighbors for diverting water onto their property. There remains without a doubt that the floods have caused a catastrophic calamity with around 2,000 people dead in the country and many roads and highways continue to remain inaccessible.
Media sources have also shared that the number of IDPs in Karachi has reached 28,000 in 23 relief camps, and due to a shortage of space and resources, approximately 15,000 individuals are on their own and denied any relief.
As the disaster worsens and the threats to lives, land, and livelihoods continue to increase, the importance of quality and accountability emerges. Among reports of delayed response, lack of planning and poor Disaster Risk Reduction efforts, poor infrastructure, and environmental degradation is the underlying need to advocate and promote for improved response efforts and lessons learned with an emphasis on how quality and accountability initiatives such as Sphere and HAP standards can help the government and responding humanitarian organizations overcome challenges. CWS-P/A continues its efforts to promote quality and accountability at the national and local level. Despite a lack of funding, the dedicated CWS-P/A team has started laying the groundwork for change. Committed HAP members pledged support during a recent meeting, the first organized for HAP members in Pakistan; the group identified challenges and areas for future action, including efforts to promote quality and accountability within the existing government and non-government structures, such as NDMA and coordination and cluster meetings. Simultaneously, CWS-P/A’s efforts to bring quality and accountability to the foreground of the flood response resulted in new opportunities to enhance relief efforts. Joint needs assessments and complaints handling are two examples.
Additional advocacy from within Pakistan and internationally is needed to ensure that the millions of dollars of funds are managed in an organized effort to meet the most immediate and prioritized needs of the affected population now as well as over the next months into rehabilitation. With many stakeholders involved, concerted effort must be made to include the affected population in relief and recovery so that these communities can begin to pick up the pieces of their lives and strive for an improved tomorrow.
Fears of a peak flood that would reach Kotri barrage within the next four days arise among residents who have started leaving their homes in Qasimabad, Hyderabad.While irrigation officials have expressed hopes that the water coming from Balochistan would flow downstream safely before falling into Manchhar Lake through the drain at Main Nara Valley.
At the same time sources have stated that several villages in Quetta have remained inundated as the Saifullah Magsi canal developed breaches. The heavy downpour which began in the country’s northern areas has affected one-fifth of the nation sweeping away homes, bridges, communication lines and even more so putting millions of lives at risk.
The challenges posed by the devastating floods are immense and repeatedly women and children are hardest-hit by the natural calamities that Pakistani’s repeatedly face. The likelihood of a second disaster if immediate and quality assistance is not provided threatens the safety and well-being of women and children. Undoubtedly, women have special needs; they continue to give birth and need proper sanitation, especially during menstruation, to prevent infections. Young girls and women during their monthly menstrual cycle require sanitary napkins and inaccessibility to such needs contribute to the plight they encounter. The provision of hygiene kits benefits women; however, these items last only for a short time and cannot completely resolve the unhygienic conditions under which many flood affected women are living. Pregnant women also face challenges if they do not receive sufficient calorie intake, necessary vitamins, or proper medical services for delivery. Humanitarian organizations are responding to these needs by providing health services and hygiene kits; however, just as millions of people still need basic relief in terms of food, shelter, and drinking water, thousands of women need aid that caters to their special needs. In Balakot, a CWS-P/A team member witnessed one woman, Nighat, give birth to a baby girl in a washroom on August 5. The hospital had been destroyed during the floods and on that day the government was in the process of salvaging equipment and moving to a house. It was here that Nighat came for assistance, but the premises was in no condition for patients. She stated, “It was humiliating; however, I am grateful to God that we both survived; it might not be the case for other would-be mothers.” Nighat is correct, infant and mother mortality rates will rise without improved medical services for women.
An important aspect of addressing women’s issues effectively in Pakistan is the understanding that women are less likely to express their problems or needs. In many families, cultural practices prevent women from meeting these needs or speaking about these issues. Therefore, during the flood emergency, it is also an issue of having accessibility to women and girls to determine what their real and most immediate needs are. CWS-P/A acknowledges these needs in all relief efforts; including female staff in activities such as distribution and health services is essential to lessening the challenges the affected women face. The mobile health units are able to take female health workers directly to the communities. This helps protect the cultural belief and dignity of women who under normal circumstances follow strict segregation from men.
Being in unfamiliar surroundings and the unavailability of chadars (cloth wraps) creates anxiety among a significant number of women and girls. Additionally, the trauma associated with having to leave their homes and belongings with nothing else besides the clothes on their backs adds to the psychological needs of women. CWS-P/A teams reported concerns of parents whose children could not sleep at night because of fear of the sounds of water; however, this also affects adults, too. This trauma combined with stress makes coping with the emergency very difficult for women. Gul Naz, CWS-P/A Lady Health Visitor, shared that she met with one woman today who is in her last trimester; the woman is disturbed by her situation and asked, “Where will I go for my delivery next week?”
Other aspects also arise during emergencies. Women are vulnerable to protection issues. Women, particularly those without male family members, are at risk of physical and mental abuse because there is very little security living in tents or damaged houses. With mobility restrictions women are unable to go to collection points for food supplies and are deprived of essentials like milk, clothes, nutrition, and medicines. Women may suffer more because of inaccessibility to available relief or fall prey to exploitation.CWS-P/A Communication Office
As water levels show a rising trend at Sukkur barrage and a declining trend at Guddu barrage the water has still yet to recede. Rain is forecasted for the coming days in various parts of the country. Thousands of people continue to remain at risk without food, shelter, clean drinking water, and adequate medication. While the size of the devastation has posed multiple challenges to relief efforts it remains necessary to highlight the fact that children and women are the most vulnerable at this time.
Media sources have shared 6 million children have been affected by the floods with some 2.7 million children in need of urgent, life-saving assistance. In addition, 3.5 million children are at high risk of aliments like diarrhea and dysentery. National and international concerns regarding the spread of cholera have grown, particularly for areas where slowing water flow increases the likelihood for this contagious disease.
CWS-P/A’s Dennis Joseph shares, “Eighty percent of patients at the mobile health unit in Balakot Tehsil, Mansehra District are women and children. While the most common cases of disease have been diarrhea, respiratory tract infections, skin diseases, urinary tract infections, and others.” CWS-P/A’s mobile health unit reports that 58% of patients were treated for acute respiratory infections, skin diseases, and diarrhea. Poor weather and damp, humid conditions increase the risk of respiratory infections, particularly among malnourished children. Children are also at risk for illness because they are more likely to play and bathe in flood waters. In addition to providing consultations and free medicines, CWS-P/A health teams are conducting health education sessions on issues of waterborne diseases with emphasis on the importance of safe drinking water and good hygiene practices.
Malnutrition is also a major concern. Prior to this emergency, nearly seventy-seven million Pakistani’s were food insecure while half of child deaths in Pakistan could be attributed to poor nutrition according to 2008 reports by World Food Programme and UNICEF, respectively. With more than seventeen million acres of farmland submerged and acute food shortages throughout the country, the risk of malnutrition and death have increased dramatically. Children have immediate needs of food items that can provide sufficient calorie intake and nutritional value.
Children are also exhibiting signs of trauma. Sher Afzal, a daily wage laborer, aged 42, shares with CWS-P/A staff that his home in Kohistan located on a hill was fortunately not destroyed during the floods. However, he expresses that his family especially his little children have not been able to sleep due to the sound of water and large rocks moving downstream. Thousands of children like those of Sher Afzal have been scarred with the images of such widespread devastation combined with prolonged fear and uncertainty.
Return to normalcy will take quite some time. At a time of year when children should be returning to school, more than five thousand schools have been reported destroyed according to NDMA. Simultaneously, school grounds have become camps for thousands of survivors. Another school year will be adversely affected because of the floods.
In Swat and other areas, this will be the second and in some cases the third year in a row that education opportunities are missed due to emergency. In 2008, children, particularly girls, lived in fear and could not attend school due to militancy. In 2009, more children were affected by the massive internal displacement caused by military action against militants. Now, after they had recently returned to their homes and were looking forward to a new start, children must endure more obstacles. Children will need alternatives for continuing their education and coping with the loss and devastation they have experienced.CWS-P/A Communication Office
The magnitude of the devastation caused by the floods has presented many challenges in relief efforts. This undoubtedly has added to the miseries of those most affected by the flood situation. Majority of them still remain without food, drinking water, shelter, and medication. As communication lines remain disrupted, reaching flood affected families becomes even more challenging. Moreover, bad weather conditions and ongoing rainfall hamper relief work placing further challenges to the level of quality and accountability necessary during a time of such widespread devastation. Concerns continue to grow as more damage is expected in Sindh Province as the second wave of floods is approaching despite evacuation and other risk reducing measures were taken.
Farm-to-market roadways and railways have been severely damaged disrupting food supplies while prices are increasing rapidly throughout the country. Wholesale vegetable and fruit traders have reported a shortfall of more than 59% in the amount of daily arrivals. Such shortage of food supplies due to flooding and poor weather conditions have caused a delay in getting relief package items from suppliers. Media sources have shared that almost 240,000 tons of wheat procured by the provincial government and stored at the local flour mills in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa may have been destroyed in the floods. Fruit and vegetable farmers in Swat Valley have revealed an estimated ten times higher loss suffered by them than during militancy and military operations.
Recently, media sources shared that aid vehicles were besieged by an angry mob in the southern province of Sindh. People were reported to have been ripping at each other’s clothes. As the food handout turned into such chaos, the aid distribution had to be abandoned. At least one death has been reported over quarrels for food; this figure could rise drastically if solutions are not found for addressing extreme food shortages. Other preexisting problems added to damage and still pose risks. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, illegal deforestation prior to the floods resulted in damage to more bridge structures. In order to transport the logs, they were floated downstream to avoid transporting them by road. The huge logs carried by the floods caused damage to bridges which in some cases may not have occurred by the flash floods alone. In some affected areas such as Dhandai, Shangla, people are seen fishing these logs out of the rivers, a resource for rebuilding their homes.
Although the major concern of various local and international NGOs remains inaccessibility to areas and people, standards for quality and accountability during humanitarian response such as the Sphere and HAP standards exist. Today, CWS-P/A in its commitment toward promoting quality and accountability conducted the first of ten workshops on Sphere’s Minimum Standards in Disaster Response and the HAP Standard in Humanitarian Accountability and Quality Management for humanitarian organizations operating in Pakistan. The orientation workshop aimed to introduce and develop a common understanding of what quality and accountability in humanitarian work means. It also provided a forum for open discussion about the challenges of adhering to standards. Although some organizations follow Sphere and HAP standards, much more effort is needed at the national and local level to ensure that affected communities participate in and receive relevant assistance. The floods pose many challenges, but the objectives should not be lost.CWS-P/A Communication Office
As water still gushes out of canals submerging parts of the country, efforts continue to provide assistance to those affected by the worst floods in the nation’s history. With emergency declared in various districts and regions people carry on with evacuating their residences. It is certain that for a large number of flood affectees life seems to be languishing. Many have lost not only their homes but also their sources of income and sustenance.
Estimates show that the province of Sindh alone has lost 3 million acres of crop land, an equivalent of Rupees 15 billion (approximately US$176 million). This is only one type of income source in one province; the total economic losses are incalculable. While it remains clear that collective efforts are needed to help people recover from the massive devastation, the pledged support from local, national, and international efforts provide hope for over 13 million people in Pakistan.
Just over US$100 million has been pledged so far from the international community. The efforts of private organizations and individuals increase this amount. Beyond money, the international community is supporting relief efforts in various ways such as providing helicopters, medicines, water purifiers, power generators, bridges, and doctors. As the promised assistance reaches the hands of affected individuals through government and humanitarian organizations’ efforts, affected families will be able to survive the aftermath of disaster. Unfortunately, due to the degree of devastation, much more is needed to provide even the basic necessities to the affected population.
Many questions remain as thousands of individuals remain stranded and areas inaccessible. Food shortages plague the country while waterborne diseases are increasing rapidly in areas where people do not have access to safe drinking water and are drinking contaminated water. The devastation described by media and other sources may not compare to the devastation that will surface as the government and humanitarian aid workers reach the isolated, flood-affected regions. Even the length of time it will take to reach all affected regions is unknown.
The holy month of Ramadan commenced today in the country and media sources have revealed that the government promises to provide cooked meals to flood victims during Ramadan and give compensation to families who have lost family members. Last year, during the month of Ramadan, millions of people were displaced due to conflict; now, people from the same as well as other regions, find themselves without a home, food, or any belongings. Millions of Pakistani people from various faith, economic, and social backgrounds face an uncertain future, even in terms of what tomorrow will bring.
CWS-P/A’s response includes the distribution of food and non-food items and the provision of preventive and curative health services. During a period of two months, food packages containing wheat flour, rice, cooking oil, pulses, sugar, tea, and iodized salt will amount to the distribution of 2,940 tons of food items. Thousands of families will benefit from the distribution of shelter kits, jerry cans, plastic mats, hygiene kits, and mosquito nets.Prepared by CWS-P/A Communication Office
The Pakistan floods have now been categorized as far worse than Asia’s tsunami and the combined Kashmir and Haiti earthquakes. The number of people who have been affected by the floods is over 2 million more than the other disasters together.
Thousands of people had to leave their homes in Muzzaffargarh as water levels rose in the Chenab River. People also left the towns of Karamour, Dari, and Badani in Sukkur located in Sindh Province.
In Sindh, the water levels of the Indus River at the Guddu and Sukkur barrages have far exceeded previous records. Communication, railroads, and roadways have been widely disrupted throughout these regions. Monsoon rainfalls have also caused more destruction, washing away houses in the districts of Dera Bugti, Kohlu, Barkhan, Sibi, Nasirabad, and Jaffarabad.
From Sultan Kot, Mr. Sawan Khan shared, “My wheat and cotton crops have been washed away, my house has collapsed, and everything I ever owned has been taken by the flood. I worked in Sultan Kot’s primary school for boys and was enjoying the summer vacations with my three sons and four daughters until ten days ago.” Mr. Sawan has received both food and non-food items through relief work carried out by CWS partner Church World Service Pakistan/Afghanistan (CWS-P/A). “I earned a living from selling the harvest and worked at the school to supplement the needs of my family while even enrolling my children in school.”
While the people of Sindh face the devastation of this year’s floods, the affected population in northern areas of the country struggles with the devastation and needs assistance. In one of the worst-affected regions of Swat, many areas are only accessible by foot, houses remain in the center of the river’s path, and hundreds of people are stranded due to broken roadways and destroyed bridges. Thousands of affected families attempt to reach less-affected, more accessible villages in the hope of receiving assistance or find transportation. In Jaray Village, Fatehpur Union Council, a CWS-P/A team met Khanzadga, a fifty-five year old woman, who shared that she was from Madyan but resided in Karachi. While visiting relatives, the floods began. She explained that after traveling from Jarary, the male family members returned to Madyan to bring the family’s luggage. She was waiting for her husband to return; after sharing a brief physical description, she requested the CWS-P/A team, “If you see them along the way, please tell them that I and the other women are waiting for them.”
The affected population consists of millions of individuals with stories of their own. Whether it is in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, or any other province, the affected families immediately need assistance with food, shelter, drinking water, hygiene kits, and medicines and health services to prevent more loss from occurring.CWS-P/A Communication Office
With the death tolls above 1,500 and the floods now already in Sindh Province, recovery efforts remain underway. The floods have caused huge destruction in the provinces of Khyber Paktunkhwa, Balochistan and Punjab including areas of Azad Jammu Kashmir while areas along the Indus in Sindh are expected to be badly damaged in the days ahead. According to government figures, so far 263,314 homes have been destroyed while in Khyber Pakhtunkwa 720,608 homeless individuals. Total estimated number of individuals affected is close to 4.5 million. These figures will rise considering that approximately 600,000 to 700,000 cusecs of water will enter Kotri within the next three days.
In the last five years since the 2005 earthquake devastated parts of Pakistan, not one year went by where the people of Pakistan did not suffer from disaster. The years 2006 and 2007 brought floods; although not even close to the destruction brought by this year’s floods, people lost their lives, homes, crops, and livestock. In 2008, a powerful earthquake rendered thousands homeless in Balochistan at the onset of winter. In 2009, millions of people were displaced by the conflict between the Pakistan military and militants in Khyber Pakhtunkwa and Waziristan. Throughout these years, severe droughts and water shortage plagued the agricultural communities who constantly live with the reality of food insecurity. Now, 2010, a year for new beginnings and the continued road to recovery has turned into a record-breaking year for flood destruction not just in one province but throughout the country.
Resilient is often a word used to describe the people of Pakistan, but this cycle of loss and destruction is truly testing this attribute. Thousands of people have been living in pre-fabricated shelters still trying to regain their lives and livelihoods lost five years ago. Entire communities have begun to rebirth, and now, these very same people must start over again after the floodwaters are gone. IDPs, many who have only recently returned home to Swat and other areas, once again find themselves without homes and property. Farmers who were already struggling with food insecurity have lost or may lose this year’s harvest, thus, pushing them farther away from achieving food security for their families.
Undoubtedly the floods have caused widespread damage to agricultural and crop lands adding further threats of food insecurity to the flood affected families. Particularly affected are the crop lands in the province of Punjab known to be the breadbasket of Pakistan thereby supplementing the problems facing the country. As sources of food supply remain underwater flood affected families face the possibility of not being able to harvest and sow their crops. Media sources also revealed today that the price of sugar passed Rupees 70 per kilogram. The country has already been experiencing increased food prices and pre-Ramadan increases in food prices only intensify the threats of food insecurity.
Similarly having no shelter and subjected to the high risk of food insecurity and water-borne diseases brings forth a harsh test through time. Flood affected families in Kashmir, Muzaffarabad, Gilgit-Baltistan and Balakot had already experienced massive devastation in the 2005 South Asian earthquake. “People in the affected areas are most vulnerable and they had hardly managed to get back their lives together after the earthquake. Again everything they had is taken away from them,” shares CWS-P/A’s Associate Director Dennis Joseph. “At this moment it is not just their material well-being but also their physical well-being which includes their mental well-being that is important.”
Dennis also shares the story of Mehr Nisar, a fifty year old widow from Punda Balla Village. “I lost my husband in the earthquake, and I was living in a [pre-fabricated] shelter with my son after that. This has now been destroyed as half of the land under the shelter was washed away.” There may be more like Mehr Nisar who wait for better times ahead so that their lives are no longer at a stand-still.