Shelterless flood-hit Pakistanis dread approaching winter

November 11th, 2010 - 2:34 pm ICT by IANS  

By Awais Saleem
Islamabad, Nov 11 (IANS) Millions of flood-hit people across Pakistan, who suffer from loss of shelter, are having sleepless nights as the approaching harsh winter ushers in the biting cold.

The flash floods that started from the northern areas of Pakistan in the last week of July devastated human life and infrastructure for almost two months, leaving more than 20 million people homeless and around 1,800 dead. Several people went missing and are still to be reunited with their families.

Flood waters are yet to recede from some areas in south Punjab and interior Sindh and the number of cholera and diarrhoea patients in on the rise.

The affected people, living in miserable conditions since July, are now in a state of panic because winter is approaching and they don’t have enough resources like clothing and shelter to keep the cold at bay.

“Nobody has come to us to ask whether our children have survived or died because of these problems,” said an elderly Fatima Bibi in Muzaffargarh, a district in Punjab, while talking to IANS.

Dilbar Hussain in Dadu, a town in Sindh, lamented: “It seems our elected leaders are hardly moved by the plight of their voters.”

Bashir Bilour, senior minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the chilly winters are likely to cause severe problems, said that “the provincial government is taking steps to ensure that we can help the people as much as we can to face the harsh weather”.

“Our people are in any case trained to face these hardships,” he said, adding that “the damage is so widespread that it will take a while to get everything back in place”.

“The displacement of people was handled amicably during the crackdown against militants in Swat and all the efforts were under way to do it in a befitting manner this time as well.”

People are, however, not happy with the assistance provided to them.

Muhammad Islam, an affected person in south Punjab’s Jampur area, said: “The government is giving us ATM cards worth Rs.20,000 but even these cards are being given at the whims of political leaders in local areas.”

Aslam in Sindh’s Sehwan Sharif district said that there were reports of people being ripped-off for these cards while the money - Rs. 20,000 - in any case is too meagre to provide them with bare minimum facilities.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah denied that “there was any corruption involved in the issuance of these ATM cards”.

“I agree that the process is slow because we have to verify the data which takes time”, he said, adding that “the authorities concerned have been directed to expedite the process”.

Sharmila Farooqi, Adviser to the Chief Minister of Sindh, pointed out that “the government is desperately trying to arrange pumping machines to pump out water from the affected areas but the scale of floods had made it difficult to do everything simultaneously”.

“We are conscious of our duty towards the masses and would not let them down,” she said.

All provinces of Pakistan and areas in Pakistan-administered Kashmir were severely hit by the floods. The World Bank and the UN estimated damage at $9.7 billion after a survey of affected areas.

(Awais Saleem can be contacted at ians.pakistan@gmail.com)

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