PAKISTAN: Ignored by the state, flood victims learn to fend for themselves

Sunday 26 October 2014

Date: 23 October 2014

Source: The Express Tribune.com

Type: News

Keywords: Fisherfolk, Pakistan floods

KARACHI:

As the risk of natural disasters increases in the region, experts believe that one of the ways to minimise the impact of such calamities is to ensure equal rights of ownership of land and natural resources.

This was suggested by speakers at the launch of a documentary, titled ‘Indus floods 2010: lessons learnt’, organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour, Education and Research (Piler) on Wednesday.

The majority of people living in urban areas, such as Karachi, can afford to go to private hospitals while their counterparts in rural areas have to rely on government hospitals. These often lack proper healthcare facilities such as trained medical staff, equipment and infrastructure. The speakers urged the government to develop facilities that can provide alternative sources of income, without having to depend on agriculture.

Hissar Foundation CEO Dr Sono Khangharani shared his experience of relief work during the 2010 floods. “I reached there just before the Tori bund breach,” he claimed. “I saw the government officials hurrying to evacuate their offices instead of saving people’s lives.”

According to Dr Khangharani, people were constantly on the move in search of safer places, three days after the floods hit the area. “The media could not even document the horrible scenes that I witnessed with my own eyes at the time.” The most vulnerable were the elderly who suffered due to problems of mobility. The family members were unable to take these elderly people along, he said. “I do not know what happened to these elderly people.”

The documentary was produced by Films d’art productions, under the guidance of Ayesha Gazdar. It covers various aspects of the flood and the poor management of the calamity-hit area by state institutions.

The magnanimity of the 2010 floods can be gauged from the fact that around 200 million people were affected by it across the country, including seven million in Sindh alone. The people most affected by the flood belonged to the marginalised sections, in terms of development. The poor management of the affairs raised several questions on the efficiency of the state institutions.

The silver lining, according to Dr Khangharani, was the fact that there was an apparent shift in the attitudes of the people after their traumatic experience with the floods. They were now more eager to enroll their children to schools and take precautions to avoid losses on their own initiative. He suggested researchers to look into the shift in the lives of these people after they had suffered a setback by the floods.

Sadiqa Sallahuddin, the head of Indus Resources Centre (IRC), said that the documentary had refreshed her mind. She said the people were brave, who valiantly faced hardships, without resources.

Speaking about her experience, the documentary maker, Ayesha Gazdar said, “We observed the insecurity of these people at the relief camps and the role of relief-providing organisations in the area.”

The documentary states that the 2010 floods affected around 30 per cent of the country’s land, in which 300 people reportedly died. It also caused losses worth Rs10 billion to the agriculture sector only, mostly affecting the poorer peasant families.

Saeed Baloch, the general secretary of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum said that despite tall claims by the government, there was no sign of a disaster-mitigation plan and warning call issuance instruments to inform the people before any calamity.###

See online : The Express Tribune.com

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