May 18, 2024

Aqeeldhedhi

Law, This Is It!

Pakistan crisis: Flood victims dig out homes as they wait for aid

7 min read

Salman Khan and his family have been working round the clock to shovel the mud and water out of their house in Nowshera, a riverside city struck by devastating floods late last month. 

“I swear it’s been four or five days since any of us have slept,” he says. “We spend all day and night trying to clean up the mess.”

Why We Wrote This

Catastrophic flooding throughout Pakistan is demanding more than resilience; it’s forcing communities to make difficult decisions about what can be saved and where to direct aid.

In Nowshera and across Pakistan, record flooding has tested the resilience of local families as well as authorities, who are scrambling to contain a crisis that’s left more than 1,200 people dead since the monsoon began at the end of June.

Officials maintain that the damage could have been far greater had the government not learned from the last round of catastrophic floods in 2010. Still, coordinating the humanitarian response has proved a challenge, not least because Pakistan is in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis that has left vast swaths of the population struggling to sustain themselves. The compounding crises have forced many on the front lines to adopt single-minded goals.

“When I assembled my team on the day of the flood, I told them that we can’t control the damages that will take place, but what we can do is ensure that no life is lost,” says Deputy Commissioner Reza Ozgen.

Nowshera, Pakistan

Outside the entrance to his flood-damaged house, 18-year-old engineering student Rehanullah Khan rests against the trunk of a winding tree. He is dressed in a traditional cotton kurta shalwar, tunic and trousers, which might once have been gray or blue but are now completely brown, caked with layers of mud.

For the past two days, he and his family have been working round the clock to shovel all the mud and water out of their house, struck by the recent floods. After taking a moment to catch his breath, he picks up his shovel and gets back to work, clearing a path from the road to his door.

“No one has come to help us, not from the government or anywhere else,” he says. “Officials from the administration say that if they come down here, they might slip in the mud and break their bones.”

Why We Wrote This

Catastrophic flooding throughout Pakistan is demanding more than resilience; it’s forcing communities to make difficult decisions about what can be saved and where to direct aid.

In some of the spots that Mr. Khan has not yet cleared, the mud lies 3 feet deep. His cousin, Salman, who lives in the same house, says that the family has lost most of their belongings in the flood. “We had to get out of here in a hurry and we were only able to take a couple of things,” he says. “Everything else got taken by the water. I swear it’s been four or five days since any of us have slept. We spend all day and night trying to clean up the mess.”

The cousins live in a poverty-stricken neighborhood called Sultanabad in the city of Nowshera on the banks of the River Kabul, which surged in the early hours of Aug. 27. As in other parts of the country, the record flooding has tested the resilience of local families as well as the district administration, which has been scrambling to contain the crisis and evacuate victims to higher ground. 

Engineering student Rehanullah Khan shovels the mud outside his flood-affected house in Nowshera, Pakistan, on Sept. 2, 2022. “No one has come to help us, not from the government or anywhere else,” he says.

“We had a single objective in our minds,” says Deputy Commissioner Reza Ozgen, the top civil servant in the district. “When I assembled my team on the day of the flood, I told them that we can’t control the damages that will take place, but what we can do is ensure that no life is lost and that’s what we were successful in.”

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