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Asia

Pakistan's northern Punjab 'ignored' by relief efforts

Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis have been evacuated in the wake of devastating floods but many are reluctant to leave their homes and belongings. In northern Punjab, victims wonder if they have been forgotten.

Villagers have fled their homes in whatever way possible

Villagers have fled their homes in whatever way possible

The car moves slowly across a rickety bridge that crosses the Indus River and has miraculously survived the floods. There is brown muddy water raging on either side. Kalabagh, just on the other side of the bridge a hundred meters away, looks idyllic from a distance, with its mountainous panorama.

However, the closer one gets, the more apparent is the devastation. As it swelled up with heavy rain, the Indus swept away everything in its path. Whole houses were destroyed. It is impossible to calculate how many people died.

A huge lake of mud

Where there used to be fields, there is just one huge lake of mud now. The only road is completely blocked. One of the local farmers Mohammad Taiz is trying to clear a path but this seems to be a Sisyphean task. "The water keeps coming back," he says. "Every two days, it rains heavily and we have to start all over again."

Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless

Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless

Mr Taiz says that although cars are able to cross the bridge, he has seen no delivery of relief supplies. He wonders if he and the other survivors have been "forgotten".

Hussein Imdad, another farmer from the village, feels the same. At first, he was able to keep his home intact by digging mud away. However, "it kept getting worse and the rain rose suddenly. It came up to our necks and we had to flee. There were no boats so I took the children by their hands. In the end, we swam and that's the only way we survived."

Mr Imdad has taken shelter at the local infirmary. It is a primitive concrete building with several rooms and one table on which medicine is stored.

The US military has put 19 helicopters at the disposal of relief efforts

The US military has put 19 helicopters at the disposal of relief efforts

He thinks he and his family will have to stay "at least one or two months because everything at home is destroyed. At least, it's safe here."

Rising incidence of disease and skin infections

It may be safe but there is no comfort. The fan is broken and there are flies everywhere.

Mohammad Amin, the manager, is desperate. He explains that at least 200 people show up every day. They have "typhus, diarrhea, malaria, gastroenteritis and skin infections."

Whole villages are under water

Whole villages are under water

However, there is hardly any medicine to treat them with and little hope of more coming soon. Mr Amin says that there has been no sign of international relief. Local government officials and NGOs have delivered some fresh water, flour and wheat but not enough and not regularly.

Islamabad is five hours away. This is where the victims are looking to, hoping that the government will help them rebuild their homes and replant their fields. Otherwise, they fear that they will have "nothing".

Author: Jürgen Webermann/act
Editor: Disha Uppal

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