Untold miseries of the flood victims – 12 Sep 2022
Floods have not just destroyed people’s homes but their livelihood
Roads were inundated. Schools were drowned. Grounds looked like a swimming pool. Over 400-year-old fort of the Talpur dynasty was partially damaged. On one side of the Kot Diji Fort was a makeshift camp for about 80 families displaced by the unprecedented floods in Khairpur district of Sindh province. We were near that relief camp when a local journalist told us that flood-hit people were protesting beside the body of a one-year-old girl. We went to the protest and the moment two dozen people saw us with a camera they rushed towards us. What we saw was simply unimaginable. Distraught parents of a little girl told us that their daughter died because she had nothing to eat or drink for the last three days.
“She was in pain throughout the night,” her mother told me. Other flood victims endorsed her story as they were not provided any government help. The tents were provided by a local charity but there was no help from the government. People also showed other children facing acute illness because of lack access to food and clean drinking water. They all wanted their story to be told to the outside world so that some help might arrive.
On our way back to Sukkur, which was our base for the flood coverage, we saw rows of date palm trees under water. Floods have not just destroyed people’s homes but their livelihood. Pakistan is the 5th largest producer of dates in the world and 80 per cent of dates are produced in Khairpur. “Floods have taken away everything. This year dates’ production has reduced by 80 per cent. This means a loss of 50 billion rupees,” revealed Muhammad Bashir Arain, President of the Khajor Mandi in Khairpur.
The next morning we travelled to Qambar Shahdatkot, one of the worst affected districts in Sindh. On both sides of the Sukkur-Jacobabad Highway, one could see large swathes of territory under water. But the worst was yet to come. When we entered Ratodero and on the way to Shahdatkot, we could only see one thing—water on both sides of the highway. It was like a road carved out in the middle of the ocean. Rice fields were destroyed, houses were inundated, dead animals on the roadside and the only dry place people could find for shelter was that highway.
Every family had a painful story to share. They told me I was the first journalist to visit this part. Manzoor Ahmed pointed at his drowned house as he took shelter with his two wives and 16 children in Qubo Saeed Khan in Qamber Shahdatkot. Roof of his house collapsed and when they were fleeing for safety his wife slipped and fractured her foot. For 15 to 20 days his wife could not get any medical treatment. Her son sold his wrist watch for over $2 to buy medicine as one private doctor plastered her foot while charging no fee. Locals told me that no government help had reached them. They were living in horrendous conditions as they were forced to drink contaminated water. The scale of devastation was so enormous that it was difficult to explain in words.
Back in Islamabad people were celebrating the victory against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup. The President and the Prime Minister issued statements congratulating the team for giving happiness in times of such distress. Also former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s contempt of court proceedings were dominating the national discourse. Television channels and newspapers were giving prominent coverage to that story. But my mind was stuck in the flood-hit areas as images of devastation continued playing before my eyes. The more I thought of those helpless people the more I found cricket victory, Imran’s court proceedings and power-point briefings on floods in well-decorated air-conditioned rooms meaningless.