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Asia

Eid in Pakistan's Nowshera

In Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, people celebrated Eid, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, on Friday. But those who lost everything in the floods have little to be happy about.

Camp instead of new clothes, children celebrating Eid in Nowshera

Camp instead of new clothes, children celebrating Eid in Nowshera

In Pakistan, everybody normally wears new clothes at Eid. And even in the camps for displaced people in Nowshera, the lucky ones have got a new set of clothes or some other small gifts from aid organizations. But Bano is in no mood to celebrate: „We’re wearing old clothes for Eid - how can you be happy when your house is in ruins?"

Tanya is carrying her new-born child whose face is full of mosquito bites. „This is my daughter. She is called Fatima. She was born here in the floods. We live here in tent number four. I have two kids, the girl and a boy. My mother-in-law and my husband are with us. But it is very hot. There is no fan, and the mosquitoes bite the whole night long", she says.

Taken by surprise

The flood waters came without warning and soon they were more than four meters deep, and it was a total surprise to the poor who struggled to save themselves. In some camps, refugees have brought some buffalos, goats and chicken with them. But the feeling of insecurity is all-pervasive.

Faqir Gul is a truck driver whose job took him as far as Karachi. But he says there is no way he can work now and leave the women of his family alone at the roadside. His family’s possessions were looted during the flood. „When the water was there, they came in boats and took everything they could get their hands on. Now that it is dry again, we can at least go home once or twice a day to check."

The weakest are suffering the most

The weakest are suffering the most

Many refugees complain that there is no proper system for the distribution of relief supplies, that it’s always the stronger people who get to the road first to meet relief workers handing out aid. And six weeks after the flood, everyone just wants to go home.

Zulfiqar, whose cement business has been destroyed and who is sleeping on the verandah of a college with his family for the time being, has lost hope that he’ll get help to start a new life: „People are saying that, but I don’t believe it. We haven’t received anything so far. But it’s all in God’s hands. We just need enough to rebuild our house, that’s all."

Refugees, Once Again

In Azza Khel, only a couple of door frames are still standing. Bricks are scattered everywhere, among them pots or a ladder. Apart from a few puddles, the water has now almost completely disappeared, and there is an eerie silence among the ruins.

No place to call home, the Azza Khel refugee camp

No place to call home, the Azza Khel refugee camp

Near Nowshera, thousands of Afghan refugees had called the Azza Khel refugee camp home for the last three decades. But now, the inhabitants have become refugees again. They are not really wanted in Pakistan, and even the UN would like them to return to Afghanistan. But standing in front of his tent by the roadside, Ahsanullah says they cannot go back: „We don’t have any land there. 200 people went back from our village, and they were put up in tents there. But then the local people came out and attacked them, and they had to run away. So we are afraid and can’t go there now after this experience."

The people who are most vulnerable in Pakistan have been hit hardest by this disaster: Women, children, minorities. And on a day like Eid, they feel it more than any other day.

Author: Thomas Baerthlein, Nowshera
Editor: Grahame Lucas