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Floods continue to wreak havoc in Pakistan

August 9, 2010

Heavy rains and floods have now killed over 1700 people and destroyed thousands of homes. Aid workers are having problems accessing the millions of affected people, who face shortages of food, clean water and shelter.

A mother carries her children through floodwater in Muzaffargarh
A mother carries her children through floodwater in MuzaffargarhImage: AP

Roads, hospitals, educational facilities, homes, shops and hotels in Charsadda, one of the worst-affected areas near Peshawar, have all been washed away. The communication systems are down and there has been no electricity for the past four days.

25-year-old Kazim Khan weeps and explains that he has lost his home. 12 of his relatives are missing, including his mother.

Those who were able to headed to higher ground to escape the floods. Women and children took shelter under makeshift plastic tents. Some brought their farm animals with them when possible.

Houses and fields lost to the waters

Seven-year-old Naila Khan lost four of her brothers and one sister. Around her, nobody is talking about their deaths because she still thinks they are alive.

"It first started raining and then the floods came and took our tractor," she says. "Then we floated on a tube to save ourselves. We had wheat in our house but it was destroyed by the flood. We had five or six rooms in our house that were completely destroyed. There was corn and wheat in our fields. They were ripe but now they are of no use."

Not far from Naila, sits 32-year-old Sajida Wahid, who is pregnant. She does not know if her husband is alive. She has spent three nights without any shelter or proper food.

"We did not get any food from the government but other people gave us food. We only got some food from a helicopter after asking and shouting for it. My house was completely destroyed. My father is dead and now I'm with my brothers who have also been living under the open sky for the past few days."

Mehmud Kot near Multan is submerged in water
Mehmud Kot near Multan is submerged in waterImage: AP

Death toll expected to rise

The authorities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have already confirmed that there have been hundreds of deaths but say the toll could increase as many are missing and inaccessible.

"Not all houses were built in safe areas. It is a huge disaster. The largest flood since 1929. The largest and worst floods in our history," a provincial spokesman said, explaining that a lack of helicopters and boats had hindered relief efforts.

Displaced population at risk of sexual harassment

Millions of people have been made homeless and Gulali Ismaiel, the chairperson of the Aware Girls NGO, is worried about the short-term future of the displaced population, which is in urgent need of food, shelter and medical assistance.

"The flood has increased insecurity for the women. It will increase gender-based violence among the affected population. It will also lead to a lack of nutrition, especially among those women who are pregnant. It will lead to many issues linked to the sexual and reproductive health of women. A lot of women will be at risk of sexual harassment and physical abuse in and out of their families."

Moreover, not everybody trusts the security forces, whom survivor Wali Khan accused of committing crimes themselves: "Some people left their homes and then the police stole items when they were sent in for security reasons."

Overall, the Pakistani government estimates that over 13 million people have been affected by the floods. More heavy rain is forecast.

Author: Mudassar Shah (Charsadda)
Editor: Anne Thomas