KARACHI: There are ralli, the colourful appliqué work Sindhi quilts, drying over the boundary walls. Inside the verandah grilles are being used to dry children’s clothing items. There are also clothes lines tied from grille to grille and pillar to pillar that are full of big cotton shalwars and shirts drying out in the open. The government schools and colleges being used as relief camps for flood victims of Sindh are providing roof over the heads of many shelter-less families.
The big banners on the building gates say that these are government camps, but other than the banners there seems to be no other presence of government personnel there, not even police or Rangers.
The people are being cared for by different non-governmental organisations and political parties. There is Saylani Welfare Trust providing them with food and medicines. There is also Dawat-i-Islami distributing warm meals.
The children run around playing tag and other fun little games. Some are keeping themselves amused by clicking the electric light and fan switches on and off. Some women are sitting huddled together; others sit side-by-side as they watch. Inside, there are more than four to five families sprawled in each classroom.
A displaced person says he had not seen any govt official since he arrived in Karachi from Qambar
Everyone has their own painful story of leaving their district or village.
Government Girls Secondary School Sachal Goth is housing some 750 to 800 people affected by floods.
Jazib Ali from Mehrabpur in Naushahro Feroze told Dawn that his area was under 12 foot water. “My goats have drowned. My newly-built cottage has collapsed, my cotton crop spread over four acres of land is destroyed,” he said.
Khaliq Zaman, also from the same area, said that his stored wheat was all gone. Mauj Ali, another fellow villager, was mourning his buffaloes.
Bibi Hakim Zadi said that she along with her family arrived with just the clothes on their backs. “We are just eating and staying here to stay alive but our entire life we have left behind in our village,” she said sadly.
There were also some people not very happy with the arrangements in the school buildings.
Mukhtiar Ali Chandio from Qambar Shahdadkot said that he was staying in one of the government school buildings in Karachi with some 200 more people from his area. “I have not seen any government official in the four days that I have been here along with my family and neighbours. There are certain party volunteers though,” he said pointing to the young turbaned volunteers from Dawat-i-Islami’s Faizan Global Relief Foundation (FGRF).
“They bring us warm food, which we cannot digest. It is too spicy and it makes our children sick. We want to go back but we can’t. So it would be helpful if they provide us with rations, oil and tea instead of biryani so that we can cook our own food,” he added.
Suddenly it started drizzling; the children playing in the school courtyard broke off pieces of cardboard from the empty relief goods cartons lying on one side and covered their head and shoulders with them as they went back to their fun and games.
“Children are innocent. They keep themselves occupied with in all circumstances,” said Rubina, a young widow with three little children. “My husband died in the first rains in June. Now we are here and I don’t know what is to become of us. My children are also suffering from malaria fever,” she said as she headed towards a stall set up by the Saylani Welfare Trust to distribute medicines.
‘Hard to please’
Another mother of six complained that she only got a water cooler, a bucket and a mat here. But when a volunteer overheard her complaining to the media and confronted her, she smiled and said: “I’m happy with whatever you have provided me. Thank you.”
Another person affected by the floods said that he wanted money so he could rebuild his house that collapsed in the rains.
“We have been doing all that we can for these people here,” said Dawood Jan, a young FGRF volunteer. “And still they complain that they are not looked after properly.”
Ramiz Bhutto, another volunteer, said that they had been providing them breakfast, lunches and dinners, but the people want more.
“We are trying our best to help them. Other than the meals, we are also providing milk, Cerelac, diapers, but they are unhappy. Obviously, they are depressed. They are not even pleased to see the gifts people donate for them,” he sighed.
Umair Hassan, assistant operation manager at the Saylani medicines camp said that they also provided meals to the people.
“We bring them naan, qeema and chicken, too, which goes unappreciated,” he shrugs.
Some local city folk, who speak Sindhi, also try to get inside the school building for free meals but the guard turns them away.
At another camp set up in a school in Gulshan-i-Iqbal’s Madhu Goth, which is under construction and has a broken wall, it is not possible to keep the locals out. But the Saylani volunteers there don’t seem to mind their presence.
“We won’t turn away anyone who is hungry,” Nadeem Shah, a Saylani volunteer, told Dawn. “At least they appreciate us more than the people affected by the flood taking refuge here,” he smiled.
Upon which, Abdul Razzak from a village in Larkana stepped in to explain. “Look, you may mean well but your spicy food is intolerable for our stomachs. We cannot digest your tandoori naan, too. There is this very kind polio worker Seema Baji who comes here with donated clothes from us as well. But she only brings jeans, pants and shirts. We don’t wear such clothing. We wear shalwar kameez only,” he pointed out, adding that there were 260 of them taking refuge in the school who were settled here by the district deputy commissioner’s office.
“Other than that there has been no contribution from the government,” volunteer Shah cut in.
Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2022