AS flooding has left schools in a bad shape, Sajida has taken up teaching. This photo shows the polio worker teaching her children and their cousins so that their academic year is not wasted.—Dawn
AS flooding has left schools in a bad shape, Sajida has taken up teaching. This photo shows the polio worker teaching her children and their cousins so that their academic year is not wasted.—Dawn

QUETTA: The devastation caused by the heavy downpour in Quetta turned my life upside down in an instant, says Sajida, a frontline polio worker, in a conversation with Dawn. “I still vividly remember the day when my husband, Farooq, who was rendered unconscious due to an electric shock, had to be rescued as rainwater inundated our household,” she recalls her encounter with the flooding.

Looking back on the traumatic experience, she says there were sirens of ambulances coming from outside; people were shouting, running here and there to save themselves from the gushing water.

Sajida, a mother of five, lives in a joint family system of about 26 members in the Shadenzai union council of the provincial capital. Being the sole breadwinner since her husband is in between jobs, she also contributes to the overall expense of the house.

She says her family still lives in trauma as returning back to normalcy is next to impossible. “The water destroyed everything in my houses. All the appliances that I had purchased from my meagre salary were gone in an instant,” the polio worker adds in despair.

Sajida is not the only polio worker to have been battered by floods. About 700 members of the Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) in Quetta faced devastation as a result of floods.

“Houses of many workers have partially or fully collapsed. Those having agricultural lands are left with nothing after the deluge ruined their farms and livestock,” according to Coordinator Emer­gency Operation Centre (EOC) Balochistan Hameedullah Nasar.

The flooding also impacted the anti-polio drive in the province as it was supposed to start on Aug 29 but had to be postponed due to floods. The delay in the polio drive is putting the lives of many children at risk, the coordinator says, referring to the resurgence of poliovirus in parts of the country.

However, the polio workers haven’t shied away from their duties despite the critical situation.

“They are still in the field … supporting the [provincial] health department in the establishment of 300 health camps in seven districts — Nasirabad, Jaffarabad, Sohbatpur, Jhal Magsi, Harnai, and Pishin of Balochistan,” the official tells Dawn. The polio workers are also working with other humanitarian organisations to provide relief to the survivors of massive floods.

The flooding caused by record monsoon rains in Balochistan has so far claimed the lives of 270 people, including 83 children. Around 166 people were injured while 65,000 houses were completely damaged. The calamity washed away roads, railways, livestock, and crops and left parts of the province marooned.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2022

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