By Sarah Kakakhel, Save the Children in Pakistan
August 2013: I am in Rajanpur with the Save the Children team, assessing the damage from rising water levels in some of Pakistan’s major rivers and preparing for more monsoon rains. In the community I visited today, tents and makeshift shelters were stretched across the length of the road as far as the eye could see. Children played, chickens and livestock wandered nearby, and women went about their daily chores. Life seemed normal, but in the distance, families could see their houses submerged in water, largely inaccessible, and destroyed. Here was an entire community living on the side of the road, with no idea of when they would be able to live in their homes again.
I met many women today at an emergency health camp. Pregnant women in particular faced great difficulty getting medical help. Access to a health facility is both expensive and complicated at the best of times as there are few facilities in the flood-affected areas, but with many roads now closed off, people must travel even farther to reach medical services.
Of the women I met today, Anisa, the young mother of an 18-month old son, stood out. She has polio and can only walk with the help of crutches. Married at 14 to Amjad, a bedridden tuberculosis patient, Anisa is sole caretaker and breadwinner for her family. She works in the fields and does occasional handiwork but only makes an average of $35 (£22) a month – not enough to provide a good life for her child. When the floods hit their home, neighbours had to carry her to safety in a charpoy as there was no way she could wade through the waist-high waters.
Anisa is an inspiration for me. She represents all the hard-working women of Pakistan who will do anything for their families, even when faced with enormous obstacles. She has survived a series of devastating floods over the past few years and continues to do everything she can to provide for her husband and son while battling a disease that only exists now, in three countries in the world. If Anisa can muster the strength and courage to work hard despite all her difficulties, I think we all can.