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Asia

Flood survivors face being thrown out of government buildings

According to the UN, there are still five million flood survivors without shelter. Thousands are trapped, with no access to food or clean drinking water. Many who sought refuge in government buildings risk eviction.

Khurshida Bibi lost two sons and three daughters in the floods

Khurshida Bibi lost two sons and three daughters in the floods

It is 11 o'clock at night. Old men and children affected by the floods are sitting outside the gates of a high school in Peshawar. It is hot and there's been a power outage for the past four hours.

The women are sitting inside, in the classrooms. There are about 50 families living at the school at the moment. Most of them have nothing to sleep on and there is very little privacy.

Khurshida Bibi is 87 years old. She lost two sons and three daughters in the floods, as well as her home.

"There was no house like my house," she explains. "I built it for my poor children. But it was wiped out in no time at all. My children are too poor to rebuild it now. I wish I could live in my house again because after all even sparrows in a tree wish for their own nests."

Refugee camps are overcrowded and very rudimentary

Refugee camps are overcrowded and very rudimentary

It is the second time that Bibi has survived a flood. Last time, she recalls, the government was more supportive and paid for the reconstruction of homes. "This time, the government officials have been very rude and have told us to leave the school even though there is no shelter for my children. They said they would throw us out onto the street if we didn't leave soon."

Gul Afzal is 39 years old. He managed to save his children from the floodwaters but his wife was killed. His general store was destroyed. He says that his once happy life turned to tragedy in minutes.

"We are in trouble now that the authorities have told us to vacate this place. I would be content if I had some land where I could pitch a tent. I would not stay here for a day. The government has set up IDP camps for people from the tribal areas and Swat but there is nothing for us because we are poor and helpless. We can't earn anything anymore."

Up to 20 million people have been affected by the floods. Disease is spreading. There are thousands of people with skin rashes and diarrhea. People are becoming more and more tense and anxious.

Much of Pakistan still remains under water and rain is predicted

Much of Pakistan still remains under water and rain is predicted

Muhammad Jan and his wife, who are in their sixties, lost their home too. "We have backache because of fear and tension. We feel pain because have lost everything in seconds. Now, we don't have anything or anyone to support us."

According to some survivors, government officials have already started evicting people from their makeshift shelters by force. Khalida Razia lost her husband and three sons in the floods. A fourth son was bitten by a snake – another hazard the survivors have had to face.

A widow waits in a makeshift tent

A widow waits in a makeshift tent

"The evictions have made me deaf and dumb," Khalida Razia says. "I want to stay here and I will not demand free food. Where will I go with my children if I have to leave this place? I am poor and helpless."

Khalida and her children will have to spend the night in the open if they are evicted from the government building.

Author: Mudassar Shah (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)
Editor: Anne Thomas

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