Tough road to post-flood recovery in Pakistan
Muzaffargarh, Punjab: Eight months after floods forced Saleemullah Adeel and his family to abandon their home in the southern Punjab city of Muzaffargarh, the road to recovery has proved rough for this landless farmer.
The wheat he planted on 10 acres (four hectares) leased from a large landowner at an annual fee of US $118 per acre (0.4 hectares) is doing well, and Saleemullah hopes for a good crop because weather conditions so far have been good. Near his house, which is now partially repaired, there are neat rows of vegetables, and a few hens feed in the yard.
But he has little else to be happy about, reports IRIN, the UN information unit. “I bought wheat seed and fertilizer after selling the jewelry we had purchased for my elder daughters wedding, which was scheduled for this month,” Saleemullah said. “Now it has been postponed yet I have used up all my savings and my two sons, who worked on fish farms, have lost their jobs.”
The July-September 2010 floods destroyed hundreds of fish farms in the Muzaffargarh area, according to media reports, leaving many, like Saleemullah’s sons, out of work. But Saleemullahs problems do not end here. Since he did not own the land he farmed, he was not awarded compensation by the provincial government, which gave landowners seed and fertilizer. “The landlord we lease from claimed he needed [the seed and fertilizer] for his own lands,” he said.
Other people, too, have suffered. “I have earned nothing for months because the cotton crop was destroyed, and factories which crush the cotton seed to extract oil did not employ us this time as they usually do,” said Ahsan Akhtar, 30, whose wife was not hired this year as a cotton-picker.
Across the country, people have continued to live with losses incurred during the floods, even as they attempt to recover it is is proving tough. “My youngest child, aged six months, has had diarrhea for nearly a month,” said Sanober Bibi, 25. The health workers who used to visit early on after the floods no longer come and the medicine given by the local midwife did her no good at all. There is no clinic in their village.
On April 6, Neva Khan, country director of the UK Charity Oxfam, pointed fingers at the government, telling reporters that a delay on the part of the government to provide a reconstruction strategy had resulted in delays in urgent rebuilding and recovery work. In some cases this had barely started even eight months after the disaster, he said. A government official refuted that claim. “The rehabilitation phase was started some months ago,” Ahmed Kamal, spokesman for the National Disaster Management Authority, told IRIN.
A Sindh government official, who preferred anonymity, said a “desperate lack of funds” was holding up recovery in the province, but “progress was slowly being made”.
Last year, the law was changed with many functions previously conducted by the Centre, devolved to provinces. This has complicated reconstruction planning, aid workers said. For example, in many flood- hit areas in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan, people still lack shelter. According to a survey conducted for Oxfam by the Pakistani NGO Free and Fair Election Network, 70 per cent of flood-affected people are also seeking jobs. “People want jobs, not handouts, Khan added.”
On March 31, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the floods, which affected more than 18 million people, had left behind a wave of sickness and destruction that has still to recede, even as the water dries up. An OCHA fact sheet said shelter and clean drinking water were still required. Many people were also still suffering from diseases. “In many flood-hit areas, pools of water in low-lying areas have become rubbish dumps.” “This adds to the spread of disease, and dirty water sometimes contaminates clean supplies used for drinking purposes,” Rafia Ali, a doctor, said.
“The floods have vanished off TV screens; only limited amounts of aid are reaching survivors – but the havoc caused by one of the biggest natural disasters in the country’s history continues, with no end yet in sight,” he added. That view was shared by Ibrahim Mughul, chairman of Pakistans Agriculture Council. “The agricultural losses caused by the floods were devastating, he told IRIN. Recovery will take a long time.