Mubarak, 37, and his son Rajab, 10, wade through the dirty flood waters up to their waist. They are attempting to rescue something from the murky depths, but from a distance it is not clear what it is. As they get closer and the water shallower, a heavy wooden chest comes into view. Report by David Youngmeyer. BADIN DISTRICT, SINDH, Pakistan, 15 September 2011
Coping with displacement
Standing in the flood, with knee-deep water, Mubarak explains that they have salvaged the chest from their flood-damaged house. He points across the large – likely contaminated with anything from dead farm animals to animal and human waste – to where they have just come from. The chest is going to their new home, he says. ‘Home’ is a tent by the side of the road in the settlement of Badin, in severely-flooded Badin District, southern Sindh Province.
The tent is hardly adequate, but at least it provides a measure of protection from the floods. The family is part of the more than 78,000 people – of whom over 63,000 are children and women – living in camps in Badin District. More than 730,000 people, including 360,000 children, are living in relief sites across Sindh, whether in roadside tents or in schools or government buildings. Some people refuse to leave their flooded homes and camp on bits of dry land nearby, sometimes isolated from the outside world.
‘There are many problems’
Mubarak says that he, his wife and eight children have been living in the tent for the past month. They don’t know when they’ll be able to return to their home, as the ground is still highly saturated. It could take months before their lives regain any sense of normality.
“Our main concern is lack of food for the children,” said Mubarak. “The family normally gets money by collecting paper for recycling, but the floods have stopped our business and we have no income. We have to buy food on credit at local shops.”
“Another issue is that there is no proper drinking water,” he explained. “There are many problems.”
UNICEF providing water
UNICEF is already providing water tankering in parts of Badin District, with regular supplies of clean water being scaled up to serve a much bigger population of affected children and families.
Mubarak is thankful that none of his children – the youngest of whom is seven-years-old – have become ill from the emergency situation, but he has no idea how long they will be displaced.
Still standing in the flood waters, Mubarak and Rajab use the water to wash a thick layer of mud off the chest. They smile at their small achievement. Once the chest dries out, the family will at least have one small reminder of home as they continue to endure this disaster.