Pakistan floods: Saqib, 5, “It was like thunder”…

On the first day of the rain, Saqib’s family, like most people from Koto, enjoyed the rain, which gave them respite from the summer sun. The roof of their two room mud house on the bank of the Panjkora River in Haji Abad in the Lower Dir district of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (KPK) Province leaked a little, but they were used to that. Saqib and his sisters Uzma 15, Madina 10, Zohra 8, Sana 6, Mahnoor 3 and Hajira 1, enjoyed playing in the mosquito-free coolness it brought.

I thought our house will come down on us and we will all die, I saw my mother and sisters crying and started crying myselfThree days later, they were no longer relieved. This year, something was different. Continuous rains caused the normally calm Panjkora River to swell. Instead of a source of life for their family and farm, it had become a threat. The family was frightened, and with good reason.

As the family watched the river from their veranda, suddenly one wall of the house–soaked through with water– collapsed, followed by the roof of the cattle shed.

“It was like thunder, when the wall came down to earth, I thought it was thunder,” said Saqib. “I ran towards my father and jumped into his lap holding him tightly. I thought our house will come down on us and we will all die, I saw my mother and sisters crying and started crying myself.”

“This was a moment of great despair for me as I could not build a concrete house for my children to be safe and sound,’’ said 40-year-old Malang, Saqib’s father with tears in his eyes.
All of them ran out of the building to the open, fearing the rest of the house would come down too. Though the rest of the building was unmoved, Malang didn’t know whether it would withstand the rain or not.

“My children were terrified and were trying to cling on to me. Although I could not hold all of them I was not letting anyone skip out of my lap to make them feel safe,” said Malang. “At that point I had no idea whether my cow and the calf which were my only possessions were dead or alive. I was just thinking to escape out of this place with my family, which was my home once but was now looking like hell to me.”

They were rescued by their neighbour who took them all to the safety of his concrete house. Malang is thankful to God for saving not only his family, but also his cow– now their only asset and which was injured but later recovered. After staying with their neighbour for the day, the family moved to a cousin’s house nearby. Malang has since returned home to start rebuilding – first one wall at a time, as well as the roof, to afford some protection and privacy for his family.

“My calf is dead,” said Saqib, crying. “I used to give it grass every day so that when it grows up my mother can fetch me milk.”

Standing in a long queue for hours under the scorching heat and unable to reach the Temergarah district hospital for treatment, Malang looks depressed and pale–like many others whose lives have been devastated by the worst flooding in Pakistan’s history. But his appearance changes drastically upon seeing a free health clinic near the bridge.

Relief. He walks in to the clinic and is treated for fever and a severe abscess caused by a skin infection.

“You saved my day; I can go to look for work now”, said Malang to Dr Shiraz Ahmad, who runs the free World Vision clinic in Koto, Lower Dir in KPK.

You saved my day; I can go to look for work nowSaqib and his sisters are relieved that at least their father will be able to look for work and hopefully, earn enough to buy food and other essentials.

As the floods continue to play havoc in the south, World Vision is scaling up its activities in Multan in Punjab Province, and in Sukkur and Khairpur in Sindh Province.

World Vision has provided shelter, food, clean drinking water, non-food items and hygiene kits to people affected by the flood who are now living in the open, on the sides of roads or in camps desperately waiting for assistance.

So far the agency has provided assistance to more than 33,000 people, and plans to reach about 300,000 people in KPK, Punjab and Sindh over the coming months.

Additional funding is still urgently needed. World Vision estimates it will need US$20 million to provide aid over the next six months. To date, the agency has raised just over half that amount.