In July 2010 exceptional monsoon rains caused heavy flooding in northern Pakistan. The water rapidly moved south and at one point covered approximately one-fifth of the country – an area larger than England. Six months on, large tracts of land in southern Pakistan are still flooded. Pakistan floods six months on
Row after row of tents by the side of the road in Sindh province, southern Pakistan. More than18 million people were directly affected by the floods, which is more than the Indian Ocean tsunami (2004), Cyclone Katrina, Kashmir earthquake (2005), Cyclone Nargis (2008) and the Haiti Earthquake (2010) combined.
“ Food prices have gone up,” says a villager in Parto Malik in Sindh Province, southern Pakistan. “We have to pay additional transportation costs as our local market has gone. We have to travel further to buy things. The majority of us are farmers but we receive no income now.”
Sat Bhai and Bhan Khatoon demonstrate the level of the flooding on one of only three houses that weren’t washed away in the village of Parto Malik in southern Pakistan. The flood came out of the blue: it was the first to strike the village for nearly forty years. One man, who stayed behind on his rooftop to guard his house, says: “One house fell into the water, then another, then another... I was terrified that mine would collapse too.”
A villager in Parto Malik displays a handful of rotten wheat. In areas where the floods hit in south Pakistan, the land is still waterlogged or covered in a thick layer of sand or a salty mineral crust, so farmers can no longer cultivate their crops. The UN estimates that up to seven million people are still in need of food aid.
Everywhere you look there are reminders of the floods: empty remains of old brick homes, which are too unsafe to live in, rusty metal fans, agricultural machines abandoned to the elements. In Sindh Province, CAFOD has been helping to build thousands of transitional shelters. Once they have somewhere to live, people can concentrate on planting and rebuilding their lives and communities.
A town of tents in Sindh Province. People remember the flood as if it was a dream. One man said: “The sound of the water was horrifying. Our children are still in trauma. It was a time when no-one was taking care of his wife or child – just saving his own life.” CAFOD has supported over 120,000 people throughout Pakistan, delivering urgently needed aid including food, shelter, medical care, clean water and blankets.
The picture Rashida (11) holds is of her 17-year-old brother, who was killed in the floods. She fled the village with her mother, Sat Bei and couldn’t return for three months. Sat Bai says: “When I got back to the village and didn’t see my son, I started crying because I desperately wanted to see him. I was told that he’d died.” CAFOD has helped Sat Bai build a temporary shelter, which she is adapting into a semi-permanent home. “I was very happy to get a shelter. I thank God that he has given me a home.”
Photos: Robert Cruickshank, Lucy Morris, Monika Vrsanksa