The power of pictures

It has been six months since the floods in Pakistan caused huge devastation, left more than 1,000 people dead, killed around 500,000 animals, destroyed more than 2.2 million hectares of crops and affected almost 18 million people. I happened to be here when the water started to spread across the country and it was shocking to see how the disaster unfolded over many weeks, with the swollen Indus River continuing to flood the southern provinces of Punjab and Sindh causing more havoc.

Waiting for their turn: many of these women have never seen a doctor before the floods (Wendy Marijnissen)

Last week I went to the province of Sindh, which hosts Pakistan’s biggest city Karachi, and I could see some of the destruction myself. People were still living in makeshift camps at the banks of the river and during our drive I saw farmers sitting in the middle of their fields, looking desperate and probably thinking: “Where on earth shall I start to rehabilitate my fields again?”

After having worked for UNHCR for six months last year, I came back to Pakistan two weeks ago to join the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) again. I guess I came back at the right time, as my colleague Stacey was in the middle of organising an amazing photographic exhibition to commemorate the floods and hail the remarkable strength and courage of the Pakistani people, whose lives were destroyed by the raging waters.

Forty-two images, showing everything from devastation to hope, are now displayed at the National Gallery in Islamabad, where we had the grand opening yesterday. “The pictures made me realise how big this crisis was, or rather is, and it has inspired me to work even harder to make sure that if this happens again, we will be better prepared,” said my friend Ros, who also works for OCHA.

Despite the hardship, it is good to see that children have not lost their urge to play (Marta Ramoneda)

Around 100 people from UN Agencies, non-governmental organisations, the media and many friends joined us on Saturday afternoon and everyone was very impressed by the photos on display. “The great thing about this exhibition is that it is not just gloomy – you see hope and joy in the people’s eyes, especially the children,” said a visitor.

For me having helped put together this exhibition was great fun but I only joined in the very last minute. My colleague Stacey did an amazing job by pulling it off and I think it will have a great impact on the people, who go and see it. It is a great selection of images depicting what the floods have done to this country. We are hoping to take the photos to Geneva and then to Karachi and Lahore – and it would be great if it could travel all around the world! And if you want to see the more of these amazing images, click here!

My stint with the United Nations is for another three months and afterwards I shall pack my bags and go back to Nepal. The plan is to return to my work with Miss Hawley for a while and then join Russell and his Lhotse expedition and attempt to climb the fourth highest mountain in the world – In Shallah, as they say here.