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Abandoned and angry: Pakistan flood villagers' story

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Abandoned and angry: Pakistan flood villagers' story
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Pak Newbie

Joined: 29 May 2012
Posts: 29
Location: Islamabad, Pakistan

Abandoned and angry: Pakistan flood villagers' story
Six months after their village was entirely submerged by the floods, it appears the people of Paka Ghalwa are still in shock.

They tell us that it feels as if they are still living in the midst of an ongoing disaster.

"Nothing has changed in the months since you were last here, except that the winter came," says Allah Ditta.

"We were dying of cold in our tent," he says. "Nobody gave us blankets or quilts, nobody asked us if we needed anything or even if we were ok."

Indeed, his small tent, shared by the 10 members of his family, looks very much as it did in September - erected on an island in the mud, created by laying down the bricks Mr Ditta managed to salvage from his house.

Beside it is the same small pile of the doors and wooden beams he also saved.

"Instead of things getting better, I am now also in debt because I had to pay for all the medical treatment my family needed. They all got infections and diseases from drinking the floodwater."

Low expectations
Certainly, walking through the destroyed village, things do not appear very different to the way they did on our last visit.

Then, the waters were just receding after having cut off the village for a whole month.

Allah Ditta's small tent is shared by his 10 family members
During that time, people had been trapped on roofs or small pockets of higher ground. Most buildings and belongings had been swept away.

There was acute desperation, but people were finally able to set up tents - or at least screens made of sticks and cloth.

While they felt forgotten, they hoped help would eventually arrive.

But most here are still living in tents, and have very few possessions. Expectations that they will get assistance are low.

If there are some small signs of progress, people say it is through their own determination.

Farmers showed us that wheat has been replanted in some of the areas that were destroyed. But even then, they talk of huge problems.

"Not only were our crops destroyed, but also all of the water channels and infrastructure," says Ghulam Mustafa.

"We have had to start from scratch and do everything ourselves," he says. "In the newspapers, the government makes promises to help, but on the ground they are in fact putting more pressure on us."

He tells us that he and many other farmers had taken government loans, which they usually pay back once their crops are sold. This year, of course, their crops were lost.

"The government announced that flood-affected farmers would not have to pay back the loans. The banks say they were never told that, and that the interest is rising. We feel the government could come and drag us away by the collar at any time."

He said he had also had electricity bills for the time his area had been under water and that the power company had cut off his supply when he couldn't pay.

"It's so stressful. We can't rest or eat."

Muhammed's story
Undoubtedly, in many parts of the country, there has been a large mobilisation of aid.

Ghulam Mustafa - like many other farmers - must soon repay government loans
However, there have also been persistent complaints of corruption and favouritism in its distribution.

While the Pakistani government acknowledges that there have been some problems, ministers say they are generally pleased with the way the country has coped with such a huge disaster.

It is not what the people of Paka Ghalwa are telling us.

When we were last here, we could not help but be moved by the words of Muhammed Nasrullah. He had broken down several times as he told how he had gone from being someone with a house and a job, to one who had to beg for food for his family.

He described how he had stood on the main road for days waiting for aid trucks to pass but that they had not visited his village.

Then how he had walked for miles when he heard rumours of food distributions in neighbouring areas, only to leave empty-handed after being beaten by police in the crush of desperate people.

We meet him again.

"In the end, one aid agency did come here to give out food, and we were grateful," he says. "But it only happened once.

"Of course we heard that so many countries gave money and help after the floods, and they did. But look around you, does it look like any of it came here? We haven't seen it yet. We don't know where it went.

"Mentally we are weak because we worry about how to rebuild houses for our families and schools for our children. Physically we are suffering too because of lack of food and clean water and medicines.

"Before the floods people here were prosperous, now we have all lost hope. Our difficulties just keep increasing," Mr Nasrullah says.
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