Flood victims still waiting for help
TAUNSA SHARIF: It is difficult to walk around the small piece of land that used to be Laal Khan’s home.
Most of his belongings are still buried under piles of mud and earth. The outer rim of a handi sticks out on the right. And a wooden leg piece of a charpai on the left. Khan’s family still lives in a tent that Al Khidmat Foundation — Jamaat-i-Islami’s charity wing — handed out in Basti Guhman in district Dera Ghazi Khan.
“They weren’t even going to drop by. But we got a personal contact to put in a special request,” says Khan. “No government official came, other than the ones who jotted down our names.”
“The ones” that Khan is referring to is National Engineering Services Pakistan (NESPAK), the institution entrusted with surveying the flooded areas and recording the numbers of people who have a right to compensation for homes and crops they lost when flash floods hit Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan this summer.
The provincial governments plan to hand out compensation once the final list arrives. In the meantime, many hit by the floods have yet to receive basic relief goods — in the form of food packs, tents, blankets and so on.
“We still need an additional 50,000-70,000 tents before I can safely say that the needs of those affected has been met. Around 150,000-170,000 families needed shelter,” says Mir Changez Khan Jamali, Member of the National Assembly (MNA), on behalf of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) for NA-266, Nasirabad, Balochistan.
“We are hoping to hand out Watan Cards by January. That should give the victims Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000,” says Jamali.
The numbers from Sindh paint a similar picture – 420,000 houses were damaged while NDMA has no numbers available for how many people were displaced from these houses.
All that is known is that 141,843 families are living in relief camps while for the rest, the government has provided only 14,000 tents. Many more may have gotten tents from the NGOs but few numbers are available. This provides a partial but tragic picture of the compensation provided.In other words, either the government has relied on NGOs to provide 75 per cent of the shelter needed for the homes that were partially or fully damaged, or there are still a significant number of Sindh’s displaced flood victims who did not receive assistance to provide a shelter to their families.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has promised Rs. 4 billion for Sindh and Balochistan’s Provincial Disaster Management Authorities (PDMA), but the PDMA complains that the funds are insufficient. Over 141,000 people are still living in relief camps in Sindh.
Personal visits to two other bastis in districts Rajanpur and Dera Ghazi Khan — Miranpur and Burghri — revealed that people in both claimed that no government officer had visited them.
One (district Miranpur) has received medicines and nothing more. According to the District Coordination Officer (DCO) in Dera Ghazi Khan, Iftikhar Ali Sahoo, they will be provided Rs. 40,000 as compensation in the future.
According to Sahoo, the compensation delay is “not unusual”. When asked what those affected are doing in the meantime, Sahoo argued that they manage to take care of themselves. “They live in kaccha homes. They just need to collect the mud from here and there, and rebuild. For doors and the windows, they just use the leftovers from their old house,” says Sahoo.
On their own and in debt
According to Ataullah, a young resident from basti Burghri that was flooded, Sahoo has little idea of the hardships that the people are facing. “We have had to take loans to pay for the building materials,” says Ataullah. “Obviously, we can’t wait around for Rs. 40,000 to arrive. It’s not even enough.”
According to a town elder from district Rajanpur’s basti Miranpur, it can cost up to Rs. 100,000 to build one home with one room. “You have to pay for the mud, the construction, the roof and, of course, the floor. And you need to have more than one room, so the 6-7 people per house can live in it. And finally, you need to remake a lot of the furniture,” says the baba. “So the Rs. 40,000 goes nowhere (kahin bhi nahin gayein).” It will be grossly insufficient, he says.
Fears that year’s floods will be repeated in 2013 has also left many of the victims wondering whether it is worth reconstructing their houses. Both bastis Burghri and Miranpur were flooded because of breaches in the kaccha embankments along the Kacchi Canal. “The embankments were not strong enough to ward off the excess water from the mountains this year and we fear they will not be strong enough next year too,” says Ataullah. “We’ve asked the authorities to fix it, but they seem to ignore our pleas.” This is why the residents of basti Burghri – expecting another round of floods – have started constructing their homes on elevated ground or on small sand dunes. But when asked whether the sand dunes will hold and not collapse in the face of floods, Ataullah shakes his head.
“Tell us what to do. We simply don’t know where to go, so this is our only option,” says Ataullah. ends