Pakistan: No road home for Sindh flood victims

Ever since floods swept away dozens of homes and damaged many others in their village in the Sanghar District of Pakistan’s Sindh Province six months ago, Dinu Muhammad and his extended family of 10 have slept on thin pieces of cotton cloth spread out on a mud floor.

Their home is a piece of canvas tacked to a roughly constructed wooden structure in a makeshift settlement in the district.

“We fled our village on foot - and because many other families from our village and others around it set up what shelter they could here, we joined them,” Dinu told IRIN. He said they had never expected they would be here so long, or that they would receive such little help. Around 30 families remain at the settlement, unable to go home as their villages are still inundated.

Others are similarly affected in Sindh. “My home has been wrecked, my fields destroyed - and the road that leads to our village is still covered in water, making it very difficult to come and go,” Ghulam Chandio, encamped since September last year at another roadside settlement a few kilometres from the town of Kunri in Umarkot District, told IRIN.

According to an International Organization for Migration (IOM) assessment carried out in February, 13,325 individuals have been unable to return home following the 2011 floods, and remain based in 95 temporary settlements.

“Of these, 90 percent are spontaneous settlements, mostly along roadsides and other pieces of land. Four percent are planned camps and one settlement is in a school,” IOM spokesperson Mutya Izora Maskun told IRIN. She also said the IOM priority was to assess how people could be helped to return.

“A fair number have reported standing water either en route to, or in, their village, which is preventing their return. Others have reported lack of resources for recovery - both reconstruction and livelihoods - preventing them from returning. We want to find out how many can return, and also how many may continue to need assistance in the temporary settlements for months to come,” she said.

Donor response

Regarding the Early Recovery Plan for Sindh flood victims launched two weeks ago by the Pakistan government, Maskun said a donor response and additional funding was being “eagerly anticipated”. In a 2 March press release IOM appealed for US$29 million to help meet “urgent early recovery needs”.

The humanitarian community as a whole is seeking US$440 million to help an estimated 5.4 million flood-affected people in 23 districts of Sindh in 2011.

The IOM survey has noted multiple problems at the existing temporary settlements, of which 75 percent lack lighting, 46 percent lack blankets, and residents at 39 percent of settlements have reported acute watery diarrhoea or other air- and water-borne disease.

Multiple other problems, including security issues for women and children were also recorded.

While efforts continue to help the 2011 flood victims, in Sindh, the worst-affected province last year, there is concern about what lies ahead. “The rains could begin again in a few months, and what will we do then?” asked Guloo Ahmed in his village in Khairpur District.

While Ahmed returned home in November 2011, he says he has been unable to re-build his badly damaged house or plant new crops due to a lack of resources.

Preparedness

The monsoon season runs from mid-July to September. As it approaches, thoughts have been turning to preparedness. International humanitarian organizations, including Oxfam, have in the past highlighted the risks of poor preparedness. The need for better readiness is something disaster management officials heading government agencies agree is “very important”.

There has been growing awareness of this. Earlier this month, the IOM-led “shelter cluster”, along with the Sindh Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), organized a workshop on camp coordination and camp management (CCCM) to improve disaster preparedness in Sindh. The meeting followed a month-long exercise, during which around 93 aid workers, including NGO activists, government school teachers, revenue officials and others working with the 2011flood victims in Badin, Dadu, Hyderabad and Sukkur districts were offered training in CCCM. The trainees will work to train other camp managers and staff.

“We learnt a lot at the training session. Details like how to set up rows of tents, and run relief activities in a coordinated fashion will help us manage things much better, and avoid the chaos we so often see at camps,” Waheeda Bibi, a school headmistress who attended the training in Sukkur, told IRIN. Her school has been used as a shelter during past disasters.

“We need to build our disaster management capacity, and exercises such as these really help,” said Sindh PDMA head Danish Saeed.

Flood victims certainly hope so. “We lived in miserable conditions in a makeshift camp in Badin near our village for three months. Even now, our house is a wreck. The land we farmed is destroyed and I have no means of earning a living.”

Arshad Ali, a farmer, told IRIN. “I don’t know what the future will bring."

kh/eo/cb

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