Pakistan: floods lead to overcrowding as support wanes

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 • Donna Fernandes

"God give me the strength so we can rebuild our house to be able to live the life we were living previously," is the plea of Jannat, a 28-year-old mother of two from Thatta district, southern Pakistan. The flood brought down her two-roomed mud house, taking belongings into the mud with it.

Jannat, her children and husband, Haider, now stay in her parent's house. Jannat's three sisters, her brother, and his wife also call the three-roomed house 'home' – for the time being.

Haider sells vegetables, earning between US $1.11 and $2.22 a day. It is a pittance. A new house will cost as much as US $444, making their dreams of a new house untenable.

During the country's heavy monsoon last month, 12 of the 86 houses in her village – home to over 200 residents - collapsed. Jannat's neighbours, Khamoon and Mohammad Suddhir, share her sorrow and can relate to her loss. Their home was also damaged but fortunately Khamoon was able to prop up part of the house with a stick.

"We need help to have a place of our own," Jannat says. "We have lost more than just our house; we lost things inside our house and our space." Jannat went on to explain that the finances for a rebuild were out of reach for them, while extra money was needed to replace household goods.

ACT member Church World Service-Pakistan/Afghanistan has given Jannat, Khamoon and Mohammad tents, blankets and food packages, allowing them a little bit of security.

While the tents provide the families temporary roofs and the food brings a smile to their faces, there is no doubt they have larger concerns: winter worries, health risks, lost crops, diminished livelihoods, clothing, and more importantly, the need for stronger homes. Despite their challenges, Jannat, Haider, Khamoon and Mohammad are fortunate compared to the thousands who have yet to receive any help.

Calling for greater help
International support will not only help families like these but alleviate some of the pressure on global poverty caused by a greater number of natural disasters, which are striking with greater force. The worst-hit communities are mostly likely already impoverished, marginalised and need help to stop them falling further below the poverty line and deeper into debt and uncertainty.

Funding for the flood response is sluggish. The United Nations appeal is dwindling at 3 percent. The ACT Alliance appeal is less than 10 percent funded, with most of the funds coming from last year's flood appeal.

A lot can happen in 10 days to a family hit by disaster. It faces the real possibility of dehydration, hunger and starvation. Families in Sindh are well aware of these risks and must face their fears each day. The cost of meeting basic needs of a family in Pakistan is very little. It costs only US $110 for a family food package for one month, and $240 for shelter.

A slow reponse was a problem at the start of the massive 2010 floods which flooded a fifth of the country. This year, the problem is exacerbated by a late request for help by the government. Thousands of Sindh aid workers are ready to work, but simply have nothing to give.