By Sarah Kakakhel, Save the Children in Pakistan
On 19 August, I travelled from Peshawar to Southern Punjab; a 24-hour journey that felt like it would never end. As we neared our destination, Rajanpur, the first signs of flooding appeared: large amounts of water in the middle of fields – and silence. I find nothing more unsettling than an evacuated community’s remains. Families’ belongings all left behind – furniture, everyday utensils, carts, lorries – but not a living being in sight.
Having worked in many emergencies, I should not have been shocked by what I saw next but I was. Everything was under water. What used to be the road had become a massive pool of water; you could not tell where the fields began. There were people here, and that was the worst part: seeing so many villagers trying to escape their flooded communities or collect their things.
The water was up to 10 feet deep and the only way to cross was by swimming or taking a boat. Adults, children and the elderly were all waiting to cross over; some of the children were swimming across, unable to wait for the boat. There were also a few odd looking ‘boats’ floating in the water made from charpoys (traditional beds) with plastic containers tied underneath for buoyancy. I would have enjoyed the ingenuity of it all had the circumstances been different.
I decided to cross in the rescue boat. The woman sat next to me, with her two sons, had some medicines in her hand. “My son has a skin infection so I had to show him to the doctor,” she explained. “We are going back home now.” I was afraid to ask if her home had been flooded, but I finally mustered up the courage and was relieved to learn that it had not.
Not homeless – but not healthy either
However, she said a lot of their belongings were damaged by the waters and her whole family was falling sick. “I don’t want to complain. I am grateful we are all safe and we still have a house to go to. Things are so much worse for most people”.
She was right. Being safe and together with loved ones was a blessing. As we crossed to safety, all I could think of was the number of people who were stranded. How are they coping? What are their plans now?
The coming few days will definitely help me to find some answers…