For flood victims, help is too little too slow

Published October 3, 2022
Residents salvage usable items from their houses damaged by heavy rain on the outskirts of Quetta. — Online
Residents salvage usable items from their houses damaged by heavy rain on the outskirts of Quetta. — Online

QUETTA / DERA GHAZI KHAN: Yousaf, 37, in Qaziabad area of Balochistan’s Nushki district can count on his fingertips the aid he has received after his mud house, and those of everyone else in his village, was washed away in floods.

“A tent, a carpet and a few utensils along with edible items,” Yousaf said he received from the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) a week after he was rendered homeless.

“It fed us for 15 days and since then, we are once again on our own.”

In his village, some 140km southwest of Quetta, most flood victims were destitute and living in mud houses. Yousaf said he had just recently built the home, but gushing hill torrents and torrential rains washed away everything. Now, all he was left with is the family who miraculously remained unhurt.

Some 600km east of Qaziabad, in Rojhan area of Punjab’s Rajanpur district, Saeed Ahmed Selaaf Mazari had a similar tale to narrate.

Authorities say they are ‘doing everything’ to reach out to affected people

A resident of Chak Mutt No 2, Mazari was a grade four employee in the local Water Supply Scheme. Despite his meagre salary, he was content to be able to provide a roof to his family. But it changed when his two-room mud house was swept away in the last week of August.

Now living in a makeshift camp pitched along the Indus Highway, Mazari with his four visually-impaired children, only has charpoys and bed sheets as his belongings.

“Neither any tent was provided nor someone took the responsibility of rehabilitating my family,” Mazari told Dawn. His voice turned sombre when he talked about his daughters who are living under open sky.

“I die of shame every time I think about my daughters living in the open,” he said, adding that at the moment, the only thing on his mind was the reconstruction of his house.

Yousaf has now rented a shanty house for his family, which included his disabled brothers. According to him, they could not stay in the tent for long.

After losing everything, Yousaf has now gone back to where he started some 10 years ago — selling scrap and used goods.

“I went to Quetta to meet my old dealer and implored him for some old shoes to sell them in Nushki,” he told Dawn.

He urged the government to at least bring the victims where they were before floods. However, he soon interjected that any help on the part of the government was unlikely as they had forgotten them after giving a 15-day ration.

Balochistan and south Punjab were the two regions most affected by floods. However, as the high tides of gushing water subsided, the impetus of relief and rehabilitation efforts began dying too, or so the victims fear. The Gandhaka tehsil of Balochistan’s Jafferabad district was, by and large, one of the worst flood-hit areas in the country. Yet, it was one of the last in getting any assistance from the government or NGOs.

Mir Khan Jamali, a village notable, minced no words in his criticism of the government.

“We have been on our own ever since the flood struck. It has brought our village back to medieval times,” he said before adding that other than a charity organisation, no one, including the PDMA, has distributed any relief items.

Editorial: If things don't improve by winter, post-flood health crisis will take on more nightmarish proportions

Unable to recall the name of the charity, he said after that one-time aid no one, including the local administration, has stepped in his village.

While tales upon tales of misery, destitution await wherever one goes in the affected areas, administration and relief organisations say their resources are stretched thin due to the scale of the catastrophe.

“Our relief operations are still ongoing. We distribute rations and other relief items with the help of district administrations, said Younas Mengal, in charge of the Balochistan PDMA’s control room.

But a lot was yet to be done to provide relief to flood-affected people, he conceded. He also advised victims awaiting help to contact respective deputy commissioners as they were coordinating distribution of relief items.

In a discussion with Dawn, ISPR officials said the army, Frontier Corps, civil administration and other welfare organisations were working day in and day out to help the victims.

However, they agreed that people in some areas were not adequately assisted due to widespread devastation.

“We are trying to reach out to all of them and will continue to assist them.”

Talking to Dawn, Dera Ghazi Khan Commissioner Liaqat Ali Chatha division said a survey was being conducted to assess the damage, after which, a rehabilitation process would start.

He held out the assurance that all possible help would be provided for complete resettlement of the affected people of Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur districts.

In the meantime, some philanthropists have taken the responsibility to reconstruct some villages in the two districts.

A settlement comprising six houses would be restored with all facilities in Waria Hajipur village in Rajanpur, a philanthropist Advocate Muhammad Saleem Bhutta told Dawn.

“We are working with dwellers of the devastated village but the cooperation of the government and more philanthropists was needed for the rehabilitation of marooned people.”

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2022

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