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Pakistan flood victims struggle to rebuild alone

September 30, 2010

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Pakistanis displaced by floods play a game in a tent at a makeshift camp on the outskirts of Karachi on September 29, 2010. The United Nations called for 180 million dollars to feed six million flood victims in Pakistan till the end of this year. -AFP Photo

HASSAN ABAD As a donkeycart owner who lost everything in Pakistans devastating floods, Jan Pervez is broke but says he has borrowed heavily to rebuild his home.

 

Fed up waiting for government cash, the 44-year-old is sourcing bricks and cement to knock up a one-room shelter to protect the seven members of his family from the onset of winter and diseased refugee camps.

 

Barefoot and in rags, the family last saw their home on July 29, when they fled heavy monsoon rain and rising floodwaters with only the clothes on their backs, swapping their independence for a life of misery.

 

When they returned a month later, practically nothing was left in the village of Hassan Abad. On the outskirts of the northwestern city of Nowshehra, the area is one of the worst affected in Pakistans worst natural disaster.

 

The United Nations has issued a record two-billion-dollar appeal for funds to deal with the aftermath of the disaster, which UN agencies say affected 21 million people and left 12 million in need of emergency food aid.

 

Floodwaters have receded but left small children, women and the elderly battling to survive on food handouts in refugee camps on roadsides, increasingly angry at a government they say has failed them.

 

People swarm around cars, begging for help. Their homes and crops were completely washed away. Their fields are covered in mud and rubbish.

 

“Nobody has visited our village. Nobody has helped us,” Pervez said.

 

“My house, furniture - everything was destroyed. We had no support from the government,” Pervez told AFP next to the remains of his house, where he is camped out in a tent handed out by a charity.

 

The four homes of his four brothers in the same village were also destroyed. The donkeys on which the brothers depended to earn a livelihood drowned.

 

“Even the home of my widowed sister was washed away, and no government official came to help,” he said.

 

Pervez said he has started re-building one room because he cannot afford a whole house. So far he has knocked up part of two walls, using bricks and cement paid for with borrowed money.

 

“Just this one room will cost me Rs. 50,000 ($ 580). The government has announced only 20,000 for us,” he said.

An AFP reporter saw dozens of people rebuilding their houses, some cleaning wells and removing debris. Villagers were using carts pulled by bulls and tractor trolleys to take away mud and rubbish.

 

Amal Masud, spokeswoman for Pakistans National Disaster Management Authority, told AFP that the organisation had started handing out the first installments of government cash payments in the northwest this week.

 

“This is the first installment. The government will provide a total of 100,000 rupees to all the flood victims,” she said.

 

While people were welcome to use the money towards rebuilding their homes, the NDMA was still concentrating on emergency aid.

 

“At the moment we are in the rehabilitation and relief phase. The reconstruction phase will start from January next year,” she said.

 

But Pervez and his family say they are still waiting. During the familys one month stay in a relief camp, Pervez says his children complained of abdominal pains, diarrhoea, vomiting and skin diseases.

 

The family were given a tent, food and medicine, he acknowledged. “But I need cash, or construction material from the government,” he added.

 

“We have nothing but Allahs help. Were still waiting.” Pervezs elder brother, Rahmanuddin Khan, 60, said everyone in the village was still waiting for government help.

 

“You are the first person who came here. Nobody helped us. Were doing all this on our own,” he said.

 

“We all want to go home, but our mud houses were completely washed away. Where should we go?” asked Yousaf Shah, 40, in a nearby government-run camp.


Noor Akbar Khan, head of the camp, said about 12 of 567 families had already returned to their villages.

 

“We are motivating them to go back. They will be provided the cash amount of 20,000 rupees in their villages,” Akbar khan said.

 

“Were planning to open this college next week, so they will have to go back,” he said.

 

In the nearby village of Shalakhel, an AFP reporter saw dozens of volunteers cleaning a girls primary school, removing badly damaged desks and chairs.

 

“It will take another month to start classes here,” Wasim Ullah, a volunteer told AFP. -AFP