Pakistan floods: The long, hard road to Swat Valley

Emergencies article written on the 09 Aug 2010

By Rebecca Wynn, Humanitarian Press Officer for Oxfam Great Britain

I was heading to the Swat region of Pakistan to see Oxfam’s emergency response to the floods that have devastated the country over the past week. It is a long arduous journey at the best of times. Six and half hours from Islamabad, across increasingly mountainous terrain. But today it was even tougher.

The rain had been pelting down all morning – and it had been a long morning with a red-eye start at 5am.

The windscreen wipers screeched and the rain was pounding. Through my window I glimpsed the Indus river which had burst its banks days before. The tops of trees were peeking out of fields of water and empty, squashed down homes could be seen where the water receded. But in front of me the flood was doing its worst again. There had been landsides on the road ahead. The traffic snaked in front of us and horns blared. After about an
hour of waiting, we realised that we were not going anywhere. Just two hours from Swat and we had to go back to the capital.

Rain was hard across the country yesterday and it wasn’t only us who faced problems. I saw reports that a UNHCR team distributing tents to 4,000 families in Azakhel camp (which houses Afghanistan refugees) were ordered to leave due to rising flood waters. Other reports said that aid planes were grounded. Sindh province, hundreds of miles away from me in the south of the country, was on high alert. Dams there had been breached and engineers are warning that two other huge dams are close to their maximum levels.

Although I didn’t make it to Swat, Oxfam aid workers there were battling against the elements. Amid the heavy rainfall they distributed soap, mugs, drinking water, sanitary towels and shelter kits to more than 200 families. In addition, a team went to a remote village called Morgojar to distribute aid. Although conditions were tough, they were doing their level best to get aid through.

Follow Rebecca’s twitter feed @beckywynn for more news from Pakistan.