Thoughts from Pakistan: once more those affected are the poorest of the poor

by Judith Kühl,  2010/08/14

humedica coordinator Judith Kühl wearing the traditional veil. Photo: humedica/Simon Gelzenleuchter

Just as in Haiti at the beginning of the year, Judith Kühl is currently in charge of coordinating reporting to Germany, she is prepared to give interviews, writes reports herself and her objective is to inform, to give incentives to think and to make people in Germany aware of emergencies. The difference is: this time Judith is not working in the Caribbean state, but in Pakistan. In the reporting series "Thoughts from Pakistan" you can read about the experiences and emotions of our young employee.

In the village of Rajja

"Those affected by the flood are the poorest of the poor. It was the few possessions the people owned that were carried away by the masses of water. They have no means of buying new blankets, new crockery or new clothes. Their only hope is to search for their possessions in the mud.

Lately, the water has been slowly receding from the houses and it is now forming large rivers around the villages, and everything which is not completely covered by mud is carried along for kilometres. People walk along the shores and search for their belongings. It is a hopeless search and it demonstrates that the people are willing to try anything in order to retrieve the few possessions they had.

While waiting for external aid, they are shovelling the mud out of their bedrooms and piling it up to a height of several metres. On the walls of the houses it is possible to see how high the water had risen. In Rajja, a village east of Charsadda, the water had risen to a level of three metres. "Only three metres" is emphasised by the inhabitants, since their village is located on a hill. The river running at the foot of the hill has become a roaring current and has risen by ten metres during the last two weeks.

The racing current had carried everything that was not nailed down out of the huts of the inhabitants of Rajja. Photo: humedica/Judith Kühl

When the first water masses reached the village, the inhabitants were sleeping. A farmer was the first to notice the flood; he ran through the already flooded streets and shouted in order to warn his neighbours. The inhabitants started up from their sleep and in their pyjamas they climbed the roofs of the highest houses of the village. Only a few hours later these roofs were small islands.

The families waited there for 48 hours. Then the water receded slowly. Thanks to the farmer's warning, all the inhabitants survived the flood. Nobody was killed. Now a large part of the water has receded and the extent of destruction is revealed. Houses have collapsed; debris, wooden boards and the drinking water well are protruding from the mud. The remaining drinking water is polluted and cannot be used.

The farmers' fields have been destroyed by the flood. There will be no harvest this year. It is a picture of misery. We ask the people whether they need medical help. Fortunately, there are no cases of emergency at the moment. But the threat of epidemics is still looming. We often treat patients suffering from a flu accompanied by diarrhoea, sickness, headache, cough and tonsillitis. Skin diseases, above all of the feet, are also prevalent.

While right now Rajja is no longer in a state of emergency, the people still depend on someone taking care of them. In the case of an epidemic outbreak, immediate action is essential. With our mobile hospital we are able to offer fast help.

When we left, the sun was shining. The heat causes the mud to dry. It also gives the people hope of being able to rebuild their village soon. But they are still vigilant and ready to fly if the rain starts falling again. They are carefully looking for any sign of a new flood, since they are not warned early by anyone. The most important thing for them is to stay alive and they hope that the flood will not deprive them of their last belongings.

A highway is no place to live - but where else is one?

Apart from Rajja, we have also seen another place which is definitely no place to live. More tan 2000 people are living on the median strip of the tarred highway between Peshawar and Islamabad. The highway is located higher up than its surroundings, and the grounds below the six-lane highway are completely flooded. Some ruins, which protrude from the masses of water, are the only evidence of the submerged villages.

Coordinator Simon Gelzenleuchter is responsible for organising appropriate working conditions for the medical team together with the coordinators Toni Gelzenleuchter and Judith Kühl. Photo: humedica/Judith Kühl

People have taken refuge here and they are living in simple tents. Mainly expensive cars and large trucks pass them by with a speed of 100 to 120 kilometres per hour. Some of them stop and give food or money to the flood victims. Since it is Ramadan, people are notably willing to help and donate. But this occasional help is not enough.

When humedica coordinator Simon Gelzenleuchter took a baby in his arms, he immediately felt its lungs throbbing. It needs help, just as do probably many more of the highway inhabitants. humedica and our local partner organisation ARO Pakistan (Aid for Refugees and Orphans) are currently conferring on how we can help and whether a cooperation with the government of the region is possible."

Dear friends of humedica: please continue supporting the work of our medical team in Pakistan. This disaster is of a size we can hardly stand up to without your financial support.

You can send a text message containing the reference DOC to +49 8 11 90 and contribute a donation of 5 euros, with 4.83 euros of this amount being directly channelled into our project work. Please also donate for the flood victims in Pakistan via our online form, or choose the traditional way of supporting us by transferring your donation to the account below:
      humedica e.V.
      Donation reference "Flood relief Pakistan"
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

The inhabitants of the village could not save anything apart from their own lives - their belongings have been destroyed or carried along for kilometres and kilometres. Photo: humedica/Judith Kühl

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