2 Aug 2010

Pakistan rain & floods is 'recipe for disaster'

The situation in Pakistan right now is dire. Over 1,500 have been killed and infrastructure has been wiped out in the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province which has been hit by floods and rainstorms. The deluge is the worst the country has seen for 80 years.

We’re working with our partners to reach survivors. Our immediate priority is to provide shelter (plastic sheeting), food, clean water, basic utensils and medical kits, writes Ashraf Mall, Tearfund’s Pakistan Country Manager in Sind Province for Channel 4 News.

The deluge is affecting over 1.5 million people – that’s the size of Birmingham and Edinburgh rolled into one! That figure will rise as the floods head south towards the Sind Province.

We’re scaling up our work in the south, so that we’re ready when it hits us. It’s been raining heavily today – so much so that it’s knocked out our electricity and I’m having to use a generator to write this blog. The heavy rain that we’re getting in the south of the country, coupled with the flood water that’s heading our way from the north, is a recipe for disaster.

Five districts of Sind Province have been declared a state of emergency; the army has been called in and people have been asked to evacuate. Some families have taken to higher ground, although many are reluctant because they don’t want to leave behind their belongings.

We’re worried about the spread of diarrhoea and cholera among the homeless. There are already reports of cholera outbreaks and, with more torrential rain to come, we fear that waterborne diseases will spread easily.

Access is a major challenge to the relief and rescue effort in the north as roads are blocked and bridges have been washed away. The terrain is very mountainous in the north so this is a double blow for aid agencies. Our local partner teams are getting though and reaching families affected, but it will take time to ensure that everyone is helped.

Thousands of people are trapped and the only way to get aid to them is by helicopter. The Pakistani Army has been very active trying to help with the aid effort, using helicopters and boats to get through where cars can’t get access. Many families have also made their own makeshift boats to get about.

Our partner agency SSEWA-Pak have a team working in Peshawar, assessing and responding to immediate needs. A second team is heading to affected areas in Sind Province in the south.

Over the weekend I was talking to people affected by the floods. One man Mir Akber Khan left his home on Friday when the water level rose. Now he says that his house is disappearing as the water has reached the roof of his home. His family has lost everything.

Thousands of families like Mir’s have set up temporary shelter in the hills hoping the water will subside sooner rather than later. They’re waiting patiently to be rescued and for food and water aid to be delivered.

Tearfund has been working in the region for 35 years. We work through our local Pakistan partners and have built long-standing rapport with local communities on development and relief issues. I just pray that we get to those who need our help before it’s too late.

For more information and to find out how you can help go to www.tearfund.org