Pakistan floods: An emotional journey

Emergencies article written on the 27 Aug 2010

Shikarpur district in Sindh province of Pakistan was hit by unexpected flooding. People are still shocked and helpless, and according to official figures around 300,000 people are displaced in the district. Oxfam is there to assess the situation and launch a rapid response. Madiha Shafi, Oxfam’s program officer in Pakistan wrote this emotional piece about her visit to Shikarpur.

When I reached Shikarpur, I saw people sitting on the roadside with blank faces while holding onto last belongings. They seemed traumatized by the unexpected flood. I slowly drove past them and entered into a relief camp located near the city.

Here I became numb as I saw hungry people and children who lost everything in the flood were waiting for food. Suddenly, a woman touched my feet and said in Sindhi: “Please give me something, we have lost every thing. I have not eaten anything in the past 2 days”. At that moment I felt as if someone was cutting my heart with sharp knife. I tried to stop her and stepped back. I was speechless and had no words to console her.

I moved ahead with a heavy heart. At this point I witnessed a lot of movement among people living in this relief camp. It is because a truckload of cooked rice arrived here and received attraction of people. Many children were running with bare foot to tell their parents that food has arrived. However, the amount of food given to each family is really far from sufficient. Each family was given a plate full of rice. In this area where at least six people form a family this amount of food is next to nothing.

I realized why hunger is a harsh reality. We completed our assessment here and came outside of the camp. The weather outside was really hard for everyone to bear due to burning temperature. However, to me everything was burning here including frustrated eyes of the people, tears which are rolling down from the eyes of the kids and of course my aching heart.

We visited another camp. About 2000 people are living in this camp, where according to the authority a possibility of 2000 more people are likely to arrive in the next one or two days from nearby flood-hit zones. Story here is the same—grim and daunting. This is the time to help these unfortunate people.

While I am writing my feelings about Shikarpur I still am thinking about the woman who touched my feet. I am once again in agony and I am not able to see my laptop screen because of tears in my eyes which is making everything hazy.