With crops gone and possessions lost, the flood-affected communities of Sindh need our immediate attention

In order to get back on their feet, these communities need more and sincere support in the coming months and perhaps even years.
Published 19 Sep, 2020 04:50pm

I have covered many stories of suffering and hardship, but what I witnessed during a recent assignment for the World Food Programme in rural Sindh has left me heartbroken.

On September 13, near the city of Badin, we entered one of Pakistan's worst flood-affected areas. For several kilometres and pretty much as far as the eye could see, there were temporary camps for the flood-affected dispossessed communities by the side of a main road in the area, with families living in hastily erected shelters and holding on to whatever few possessions they had left.

The conditions that we saw them living in, one could say that getting by in itself is a struggle for these communities. Some people would walk long distances in search of fresh water, whereas others would drink from the dirty water lapping up by the roadside. Many farmers had lost their cattle in the floods. Those whose livestock survived were doing all that they possibly could to keep the animals alive. Some of them had also built makeshift shelters for their animals and would share whatever little clean water they could spare with them. After all, these animals are the only source of income that these communities can rely on for now.

These communities are living in abject conditions that can pose severe health risks to all members. During the assignment, we saw children playing in the dirty floodwater, and women washing clothes and bathing their kids using the same. This is the case as there are not enough viable options and whatever clean water there is, is having to be rationed.

In the scorching heat of this region, insects can also be common and the prevalence of water means flies and mosquitos are everywhere, adding to the risk of disease for those who already have to live under the open skies and in conditions that have put their health at risk.

For the province, the monsoon is an annual event, but with climate change, the floods tied to it are getting worse. In the most recent flooding just weeks prior, scores of villages were destroyed and thousands were left homeless.

For some towns and villages, such as the ones in Mirpurkhas district, we had to travel by motorboats to reach the area. Villagers there told us that they hadn't seen any outsiders ever since the floods devastated their homes and that all their crops were now gone and possessions lost; no more houses, and nothing to eat. All I could say to them at that time was ‘I’m sorry’.

If they are left alone to fend for themselves, these communities may not able to make it. Their mud houses and fragile livelihoods as subsistence farmers cannot withstand this onslaught.

What has happened here can and must be tackled with urgency. The World Food Programme has provided them with food rations — flour, pulses, cooking oil, and nutritious edibles for children to prevent malnutrition from setting in. But for these communities, in order to get back on their feet, they need more and sincere support in the coming months and perhaps even years.

The WFP has been distributing food to the affectees. At one such distribution site in Umerkot, we met families that had gathered to receive their pre-packaged food ration as the villagers are all affected by the recent floods and are in desperate need of help. And then one villager asked ‘what will happen when this runs out? And how can we rebuild our homes?’

And this is not the story of this man alone. All along the main road of the city of Badin are kilometres and kilometres of hastily erected shelters, with dispossessed families seeking refuge, not knowing when they may be able to have a proper dwelling for themselves to move into.

The devastation is equally visible in an urban slum that we visited in the city of Karachi. Amidst damaged houses and roads, children were running around barefoot; mothers with babies in their arms were navigating carefully, so they do not trip through the puddles mixed with floodwater and sewage.

The effects of climate change are being increasingly felt in Sindh, and they are taking a particularly heavy toll on these communities of subsistence farmers, nomadic tribes, as well as on those living in urban slums; all the people we met during this assignment.

If anything is to be learnt here, it is that climate change is a threat to our communities and the danger it poses is constantly on the rise. Therefore, not only is it time for us to sincerely acknowledge this problem but to start taking meaningful measures to address it.

All photos by writer


Author Image

Saiyna Bashir is a Pakistani photojournalist, with an interest in covering stories of women from vulnerable communities, as well as stories of migration, climate change and other humanitarian issues. Her photos have been published alongside stories in the NYT, the Washington Post, WSJ, and others. She tweets at @saiyna.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (21) Closed

Ahmed bin Babar
Sep 19, 2020 05:45pm
Are 11 months not enough to plan for the floods..?!
Recommend 0
M. Emad
Sep 19, 2020 06:15pm
Pakistan's Indus basin flood-disaster preparation/ assessment/ mitigation management system very poor. The (municipal, provincial & central) government administrations become helpless to cope with recent urban flood.
Recommend 0
javed hasnain
Sep 19, 2020 07:05pm
Long term planning is to be done both by the people the community and the local and provincial government.
Recommend 0
Sep 19, 2020 07:57pm
This is Ik's naya Pakistan.
Recommend 0
Sep 19, 2020 07:58pm
Our smart PM has failed miserably.
Recommend 0
Chrís Dăń
Sep 19, 2020 08:24pm
I genuinelly wish ,Nr. Bilawal Bhutto and Mr. Shah read this article and plan a strategy to help these people.
Recommend 0
Chrís Dăń
Sep 19, 2020 08:24pm
@Dr.AsHamed., 18th amendment.
Recommend 0
Aslam Khan
Sep 19, 2020 08:25pm
where is PPP govt?
Recommend 0
Sep 19, 2020 08:32pm
@Dr.AsHamed., What IK has to do with the natural disaster. The responsibility for rescue packages lies with the Sind Government full of looters who have least interest in the welfare of the masses.
Recommend 0
Mazhar Zubairi
Sep 19, 2020 08:47pm
No planning is going to change anything till the root cause is addressed and removed. The problem is the feudal system in SINDH. Common people treated worst then animal and normally deprived of clean drinking water, health care, education and shelter. Flood cycle is another way used by feudal, establishment to cry wolf and collect money and abuse more. In fact the country is run by feudal Mafia. Nothing is done and most relief work is done by urban people. Mr. Khan act and remove root cause.
Recommend 0
kamal chowkidar
Sep 19, 2020 09:29pm
I can say now with 100% confidence that Pakistan is a super power.
Recommend 0
Sep 19, 2020 09:39pm
Thank you adi for such nice piece of writing but I was struggling to find the measures taken by the govt to halt such climate induced disasters.
Recommend 0
Jalbani Baloch
Sep 20, 2020 03:25am
Thank you for highlighting the plight and pathetic conditions of poor people of Sindh, otherwise, the media, writers and thinkers only riveted their focus and attention on the destruction caused by heavy rains and floods in Karachi. The solution only lies in forging unity amongst the people of Sindh to create a forceful opposition against any government to solve the issues of people of Sindh, otherwise, the Govt. shall continue to rule without having the fear of being held accountable.
Recommend 0
Sep 20, 2020 03:36am
Where is Bilawal, he wants to run the country Pakistan, how will he manage if he cannot manage his allocated job, the Sindh Province; a selected and with sense of entitlement has not done a day's work. Move over give CM Murad Shah a chance to be the leader of PPP and see what he does to shame you Dynasty holders with abysmal record of governance.
Recommend 0
Ibrahim S
Sep 20, 2020 04:37am
First and foremost , provide clean water or a system to clean the water unless you are waiting for another disaster of water born diseases .
Recommend 0
Sep 20, 2020 05:53am
time and again these same districts are inundated. the main reason is not preparing, mitigating the flood risk. there is no Disaster risk reduction programs in these small cities. moreover, the big landlords constructed illegal bunds that stop natural flow of rain water into sea. this must be stopped.
Recommend 0
super cruise
Sep 20, 2020 08:02am
Imran Khan Niazi has promised cash program for all. So the poor and displaced people should not worry.
Recommend 0
Sep 20, 2020 11:16am
Each year floods cause huge losses in Punjab and Sindh, mostly the poor farmers lose thier agricultural produce and property etc. The ruthless and shameless political parties continue to fight against each others in provinces and the center. The poor masses continue to suffer with no help.
Recommend 0
Sep 20, 2020 11:53am
Well they should knock on the exceptional leadership ( Coughs in penury ) of Mr 10 % and Billo Rani. You voted for them for 20 Rs, time to collect the rewards.
Recommend 0
Sep 20, 2020 12:13pm
Sindh is most neglected province of Pakistan.... Poor fellows.
Recommend 0
Amir Ali Khan
Sep 20, 2020 12:21pm
Heart breaking images. What a contrast between living conditions of the rulers and the ruled !
Recommend 0