Eric Dayal, Emergency Officer with Caritas Pakistan
I’ve been out on an assessment in Sibi in the diocese of Quetta this week. Sibi is one of the hottest inhabited places in the world so it was very humid when I visited. So humid that you could hardly breath.
The people were in terrible conditions and had lost everything. About 80 percent of the houses had gone and there were just piles of mud around. Some of the people had been evacuated while others had gone up to higher ground. They were getting some food through the Government, but that was just once a day.
People were desperate for help in Sibi. They would pull on my hand and ask me to go and see where their houses had been. They really needed some help.
With the fields under water as well as the houses, people didn’t have anything to do. Some would just sit around waiting. The women would gather in one place while the males would try and get rid of the water in the houses that were still standing. The children, meanwhile, would play in the water and swim.
It’s a big problem for communities to leave the disaster area because of the water levels and the blocked roads. But by staying in the area the health risks increase and people can get things like cholera, stomach problems and skin problems on their feet when they wade through the floods. There’s also the possibility of snake bites.
It’s natural that in communities where people have more money they leave as soon as the disaster strikes. But poor people don’t even have enough money for food, let alone enough money to go somewhere else.
It is a challenge for Caritas reaching these communities with the blocked roads. Even when the roads are no longer blocked, the road surface may have been washed away and they are very dangerous to drive on.
When I go to communities to do an assessment I wear local clothes so I’m more easily accepted. If they are barefoot, I go barefoot too. In Sibi I found myself walking through water that was a foot high in some places, two feet in others.
Caritas Pakistan alone will help around 2,500 families in the dioceses of Multan, Quetta and Rawalpindi for a month with food, shelter, hygiene health and things such as mosquito nets and cooking utensils. We are also working with other Caritas member organisations who are planning to help people with other projects. Caritas has already set up mobile health camps in Multan where there are male and female doctors and a dispensary. In these camps we give preventative treatment and we treat cases of skin and stomach problems.
Pakistan has floods every year, but this time they are very intense. Things seem to be going from bad to worse. The sun is drying some areas, but more rain has been forecast. People usually cope with the floods as it’s part of their normal life. But seeing as these floods are so massive, this time it might take them a bit longer to get back to normal life.