Most of you will have heard that Pakistan has been hit by severe floods following torrential rains that fell over one week ago, and the extent of these raging waters engulfing the country is still not quite clear.
Here in Islamabad, the situation is ok but I remember that last Thursday I could not take my bike to work as most roads in Islamabad were flooded. I was just about to get on my two-wheeler when my colleague Victoria rang me telling me that I could not possibly cycle and that she would send Peter, another colleague, around to pick me up. I have to admit that I was actually quite glad as I saw people wading through knee-deep water, cars that were almost completely emerged in puddles that were the size of a lake and motorbikes stalling. However, this is Islamabad and the extent of these floods in the rest of the country, mainly in Khyber Pakthunkwha in the Northwest and Balochistan in the West is just horrendous. Reports say that millions of people have been affected, more than 200,000 houses have been destroyed or damaged, over 10,000 cattle have died and around 1.4 million acres of land has been flooded, which of course will severely affect the crops and people’s livelihoods.
Last night it was pouring down again in Islamabad and I was sitting in my dry flat thinking about all these people, who are stranded somewhere outside, with nothing left other than the few belongings they had managed to take with them and which are probably being swept away in the new rainfalls. A couple of hundreds of tents have been pitched on the main highway from Islamabad to Peshawar, which people have made their temporary homes as it is slightly elevated and most of the flood water has receded there. Cows and oxen have been tied to the crash barriers and their owners are living in anything that can be used as shelter on the central reservation of the highway.
Lives behind numbers
It is very easy to work for an aid organisation, write reports about the humanitarian situation based on information you get from the field and sometimes forget that there are actually human lives and tragedies behind all these numbers you deal with on a daily basis!
But with the relentless rains continue, I feel for the people all over the country. I think about the people in Swat, who, a couple of years ago, had to flee their homes due to the military operations there. Most of them were living in camps in safer places in Khyber Pakthunkwa for more than one year and they have only just returned home as the area was declared safe. I cannot imagine how these people feel – here they are, going back home and being hopeful that they can build up their lives again – and then the floods hit their houses, their crops, kill their cattle and their dreams of getting their lives back are once again shattered. According to reports, most of the bridges in Swat have been washed away, which means that many areas are still inaccessible by road, which makes relief efforts very difficult. Of course, the humanitarian community, together with the Pakistani government, is working hard to reach these people but the scale of the catastrophe is just immense….. and the Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is gallivanting around the UK trying to launch his son’s political career!!!!
As I am writing this it is pouring down with rain again and I just do not know when this is going to stop. The meteorological office has forecast more rains and the monsoon is far from over. It is just beyond comprehension how this major crisis, which is probably the worst Pakistan has ever seen, will end.