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Donation Funnel
Children in Pakistani village walking in a group

One year on: “It wasn’t just the children who were terrified – each one of us felt that fear”

Islamic Relief’s Global Advocacy Advisor Shahin Ashraf reflects on her recent visit to Pakistan, and describes how families are still in desperate need of support. 

During my journey to Pakistan, I was met by devastating stories of those whose lives had been torn apart by flooding. 

Among them was 22-year-old Farzana from Dadu Village . 

“It was a time of chaos and displacement. Amidst the floodwaters, I found myself pregnant and gave birth to my daughter”, she said. 

 “Malnourished and stunted, she appears far younger than she is – like a mere two-month-old infant.”

Farzana described her daughter’s restless nights. 

 “The trauma lingers; the memories of those floods haunt her. The village elders say that it’s all she thinks about, even now, when we’re back in the sanctuary of our home, relatively safe”, she said. 

Ali’s story

It became very clear that the effects of the floods were deeply present, and that there is a long way to go before communities rebuild their lives. They are still in desperate need of support. 

“We were forced to part with our possessions as our livestock perished. Goods that once held a value of £8  were relinquished for a mere £3.50. The desperation to feed my family overshadowed any other consideration” said Ali. 

“Debt engulfs many of us in the village. In the wake of the floods and the loss of our livestock – our sole remaining assets – we sought funds for rebuilding. We borrowed £26, and now we’re saddled with the responsibility of repaying £53 in interest within a mere 12 months”, said 30-year-old Ali from Mirpur Khaas. 

“The weight of this debt never relents. I toil all day in the rice fields, yet frequently our earnings fall short of meeting the monthly demands. The strain has taken its toll on my mental wellbeing’, said Ali’s wife. 

“For the women without husbands or those in need of a supplementary income, the battle is even more arduous. Moneylenders often come to claim their belongings – a heart-wrenching sight. The disparity looms as men tend to reap greater rewards in the rice fields. The labour is backbreaking. 

“This entire village now exists beneath the weight of debt. We all bear the responsibility of providing for our children. 

“Some of the surviving cattle succumbed because we had to prioritise feeding our children”, said Ali. 

Witnessing this struggle was agonising, yet there was no alternative. The villagers found themselves gripped by fear as the floods surged forth without warning. 

“No one saw it coming. As we rushed to rescue our children, disorientation set in. The direction of the floodwaters remained unclear. It wasn’t just the children who were terrified – each one of us felt that fear”, said Ali. 

Amidst the tumult, the villagers sought refuge on the roads until temporary settlements were established. However, not all returned. 

Struggling with daily life 

In another village, I met Akbar Ali who disclosed that, much like others facing similar situations, he and his family  had taken to the streets out of sheer necessity – struggling without sustenance, warmth, or even basic facilities.

The community’s primary livelihood centres around cotton picking, with unpredictable earnings that fall just below £1 per day. This financial instability perpetuates the hardships they confront, and women earn a mere fraction of men’s wages for identical work. 

 It also became evident that loans had become an unfortunate necessity for many. However, these loans came with their own set of difficulties, with interest payments soaring high. Tragically, this financial strain has been recognised as an exacerbating factor in cases of domestic abuse within the community which has worsened in flood-affected communities. 

This enlightening encounter underscores the intricate interplay of societal, economic, and cultural elements that shape the existence of marginalised communities.

In the heart of Sindh, the spirit to rise above challenges burns brightly. It’s a spirit that unites Farzana, Ali Deen, and countless others, urging them to overcome the burdens of debt, disparity, and disaster. Their stories remind us that while adversity may knock them down, it does not define them. Instead, it fuels their determination to rebuild, to rewrite their narratives, and to pave the way for a future that holds promise and progress.

Flood-affected communities are still in desperate need of homes, food and livelihoods. But they are also in need of education, equitable wages, and mental health support, which are crucial steps toward dismantling the cycles of adversity and fostering positive transformation.

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