Pakistan floods: 'Desperate for doctors'
- 24 August 2010
- From the section South Asia
Eyewitnesses in three areas affected by the floods in Pakistan describe the lack of food, water and medical help that is fuelling fears of a growing public health disaster in the country.
Omar Ahsan, in Shangla district
Omar Ahsan, an interior designer living in Karachi, has visited 17 remote mountain villages in Shangla district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (formerly North West Frontier Province or NWFP).
"I have a comfortable life in Karachi and when this calamity hit, me and some of my friends felt we had to help some of the affected people. First we took food relief to Peshawar and some other urban areas of the NWFP.
Then I got a phone call from a driver, who used to work for me. He said he's been seeing bodies in the river where he lives, about 150km (95 miles) from Islamabad. He said there were many, many bodies, hundreds of them, and that they all came from Shangla district.
At that moment I decided I should go to that place. I came over here alone. I managed to get one truck of relief. It's a big district, hundreds of kilometres. The whole network had collapsed, the telecommunication network has come down.
When I reached the end of the roads, I had to start walking.
I spent the last four days travelling on the outskirts of Shangla district, walking in a mountainous terrain. I covered about 55km and visited 17 villages.
People there are hungry and thirsty. There's no electricity, no water, no gas, no food supplies. The nearest place where food is being distributed is Karora and the queues are 3-4km long.
Thousands of people come down from the mountains and stand in the sun for a whole day in order to get a bag of flour. The queues are long, these are simple people, their patience is compromised, queues are broken and some go away with bruises and injuries.
In each village I went I was supported by the elders and I was joined by volunteers. Elders would tell me how many houses were destroyed, I would gather the data and issue them with a token to come to Karora where we had our own food supplies waiting for them.
Yesterday we set up a camp in Karora. From early morning till late afternoon we distributed food to 300 families, which is probably more than 3,000 people. It was a tough day.
But work is far from over. People desperately need more food and most importantly they need lady doctors. There are hundreds of thousands of women and children without a doctor. Kids were crying of pain and mothers were begging me to bring them female doctors.
If someone is ill, they put him on a stretcher which four men carry down the mountain until they reach the nearest hospital. That could take a couple of days of walking. And there are hundreds of thousands of people stuck there without any help."
Nasrullah Jamali, from a village in Balochistan
Nasrullah Jamali fled to Karachi after his village in Balochistan was hit by the floods a week ago. He describes the devastation for him and his villagers.
"Our homes are gone, everything is gone. The water level is now 6 to 8ft. People can't live there. There's nothing left.
We knew the water was coming, we knew it was expected, we were seeing that it was coming.
Me and my family left and we are now staying in the house of my uncle in Karachi. But many people couldn't afford to leave.
I speak to my villagers all the time.
They are now staying in shelters made by themselves using plastic sheets. They don't have water and food. Yesterday there was one helicopter to get food to them, but it's not enough.
There's a nearby place - about 3km away from my village - I am told there are six people trapped there, surrounded by water.
I try to organise aid for them. I am contacting the army to send relief helicopters to them.
There are sick people and they don't have any medicine. I can't describe it in words - it's a very serious situation.
I don't know when we'll be able to return to our home. It will probably take six months. There's nothing we can do. We are still in the state of shock."
Ghulam Nabi Magsi, who visited flood-hit Sindh Province
Ghulam Nabi Magsi was visiting relatives in the province of Sindh in the middle of August, when the floods swept through the village. Now back in Lahore, he describes that moment - and the current situation in the village.
"I was on holiday visiting my relatives in their small village in Ghotki district, Singh province, when the floods came. It was a horrible situation. The floodwaters were everywhere.
Our area was the first to be affected after the flood in Punjab. We thought it was not going to be that big, but it turned out to be a mega flood. The houses were completely flooded.
People fled leaving everything behind. Me and my immediate family returned to Lahore and other relatives went to Karachi.
The waters have moved south and a few of my relatives, all men, have returned to the village. They say the water level is down, but there are many problems.
The houses are damaged by the water, but they'll repair them. The problem they now face is lack of water. The water is not suitable for drinking and there's the danger of water-borne diseases.
They get help from the government and from people living in nearby areas that haven't been affected.
They expect their wives and children to join them by the end of the month."
A number of governments and aid organisations are appealing for donations to help those affected by the flooding in Pakistan.