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Difficult times for Afghan refugees in flood-stricken Pakistan

Tens of thousands of people have still not received much help in flood-stricken Pakistan. These include Afghan refugees who have been living in Pakistan for decades.

Many families in Zindai camp have lost their homes in flooding

Many families in Zindai camp have lost their homes in flooding

In the Zindai Afghan refugee camp in north-western Pakistan, the flood killed scores of people and destroyed nearly 1200 homes. Now all that remains is mud and brick ruins. There is no clean drinking water and flies buzz around dozens of small dirty ponds.

Six year old Merzia is here, searching through the rubble of what used to be her home for one of her hand-made dolls. She said most of her family escaped from the house before the flood water submerged it. "A wall of our house fell on my brother, says Merzia. "My mother and I wept when we saw my injured brother. Our house is completely destroyed and we have not received aid so far."

Household items scattered around the camp

Household items scattered around the camp

Resilience

Broken dishes, Cupboards, beds, and other household items are covered in mud and spread around the camp. People have been searching for valuables in the ruins of their homes. A few meters away from Merzia, her mother Naseema Jan digs through bricks that used to form her bedroom walls.

The flood has shattered the family. One of their injured sons is hospitalized and the rest of the family sleeps outside. Naseema says if they receive aid money, she wants to rebuild. "We have spent many days and nights under the open sky but now we cannot stay at night because of thieves. But even though there are thieves, I like living in Pakistan and would love to rebuild my house and stay here instead of going back to Afghanistan. Everybody has her own choice and my choice is Pakistan".

Naseema's husband Nowsherawan intervenes and says, "She wears a Pakistani dress and she likes Pakistan but if I had money then I would not stay here and we would go back to my country. I would love to live with my own tribe and relatives in Afghanistan but this is a choice that would have to be made by the whole tribe living here."

Where to go for shelter?

According to United Nations, there are more than one and half million Afghan refugees in Pakistan's flood affected areas. Like many affected by the floods, refugees are suffering from fever, intestinal and stomach infections, eye and skin diseases, tension and anxiety.

An Afghan refugee searches for his belongings at a refugee camp

An Afghan refugee searches for his belongings at a refugee camp

Many of the Afghan refugees living in this camp lost their refugee ID Cards during the flood and say they are having a hard time getting essential aid such as tents and food from the UN refugee agency. They are also concerned they won't be able to rebuild their homes here. Some refugees told Deutsche Welle that the UN refugee agency is encouraging them to return home.

Iqbal Khan has been living here for 30 years. Now he is not sure where he is going to live. He says, "the Pakistani land owners say they were waiting for this day to see Afghans' homes destroyed so they could take back the land. I would not wait one minute to return to Afghanistan, if I had my own land there. But we can't go back to Afghanistan because it will be winter soon and there are land disputes in which the landlords would not allow us to build houses".

The wait for aid continues

Many refugees wait the whole day for aid but little comes in. Most of the food is coming from Pakistani neighbors, but the refugees know they can't rely on that for long. Another refugee Gul Mar Jan lost her husband in the flood. She now takes care of her seven children alone. "My house was completely destroyed and I can rebuild if someone gives me cash because rebuilding needs cash money. I did not get any aid. My family is still living in the field and my children are lying under the open sky and there are flies and ants at night and during the day, my children are lying under the hot summer sun," she says.

Other refugee camps have also been hit. According to UNHCR, In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province more than 12,000 homes were destroyed leaving another 70,000 people homeless.

Author: Mudassar Shah

Editor: Disha Uppal

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