Oxfam staff member Mubashar Hasan recently spent two weeks in Pakistan doing emergency field work. Shortly before leaving he visited a temporary camp in Nowshera district — a camp that many Pakistani children now call home. This is the account of his visit.
I was on my way to Nowshera district of Khaybar Pakthunkhawa Province in Pakistan to look at how children were affected by the floods. In my mind I was preparing for an emotional day.
I’d read news of children affected by hunger, diarrhea, skin and other diseases. I told myself that I needed to pass my day in a professional manner and keep my emotions in check.
However, what I found was different than I expected. I was mesmerized by the bravery and creativity of the children in the camps. They were suffering from many problems and deprived of basic human rights, but were standing high with smiles on their faces amidst all odds.
“We run in this camp, we jump into the muddy water next to the camp and love to play cricket everyday,’ said Rejagul, a fourth grade student who was living in an unofficial camp set up at Mundhighaz camp where Oxfam is working hard to provide clean drinking water.
Rejagul’s school is closed. It’s one of the over 8,000 schools destroyed or damaged in the catastrophic flood in Pakistan. Rejagul was standing among a group of children who surrounded me amid midday under scorching heat in a field where UNHCR had installed tents.
Their clothes were dirty and filthy and they didn’t have any shoes. Many parts of their bodies were bearing signs of skin diseases. Some of them said, the unbearable heat and flies made their life miserable, but they were adjusting themselves to their circumstances and had worked out plans to have fans.
I spent around an hour and half in this camp discovering how the children were passing their time. Like children everywhere, they were playing – blowing bubbles and playing noughts and crosses.
It requires a lot of courage to smile when there is little or no food to eat, no home to live, very little clean water to drink, no bed to sleep and no air conditioning or fan to cool down the burning temperature.
The way these children were handling these floods was truly inspirational. The world needs to act to keep the spirit of these children high by proving aid to re construct their homes, schools and lives.
All photos credit Mubashar Hasan/Oxfam