MUZAFFARGARH: Raqba Rauf and Tiba Jamalwala were two of the several plots of highland scattered in the suburbs of Muzaffargarh city. Come August 8 and they transformed into safe havens for more than 800 residents of Gurmani, Sinawa, Qasba Gujrat, Baseera and Mahmood Kot settlements.
These, along with Peer Musa, Sultan Colony and Lahori Gate, are five relief camps set up in Muzaffargarh by the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), a development NGO, in collaboration with its partners. These partners range from not-for-profit organisations – Farmers Development Organisation (FDO), a local NGO working towards empowerment of farmers, and Family Planning Association of Pakistan (FPAP), a healthcare NGO – to individuals like Dr Shafiq Durrain, Rukhsana Parveen, Hakim and Suwara Khan Chandya.
“Our job is to link up the stakeholders,” Munzir Elahi, the PPAF general manager (media and communication), said explaining his organisation’s central role in the flood relief and rehabilitation efforts. He said that the PPAF was connecting donor agencies (such as USAID, World Bank, KfW – a German Bank) that had funds, to local organisations (like the FDO) that had the grassroots knowledge and a workforce that was aware of the issues and needs of the displaced population.
He said that the nature of PPAF’s work had brought it in close contact with villages and communities. “With our projects going on in partnership with 87 organisations across 80,000 villages of 127 districts, we only needed to divert funds from those projects to flood relief work,” Elahi said. Besides, the PPAF workforce comprised people from those communities. “These individuals are now performing most of the tasks ranging from identifying sites and setting up camps to food provisioning,” he said pointing towards a man in his late 20s. Elahi introduced him as the person in charge of most tasks including food distribution in the camps in Muzaffargarh.
Rafiullah, who is a project director at FDO, said that following the breach in the canal and evacuation calls to the neighbouring villages his team started looking out for appropriate places to set up relief camps. Recollecting how the first camp at Raqba Rauf was set up, he said, “It was then that we found a group of displaced people who had settled in along with their cattle and other meagre belongings at a highland off Muzaffargarh Road. We knew it then that it was an appropriate place to set up PPAF’s relief camp.”
The Raqba Rauf camp later attracted more displaced people and is now home to 445 including 221 children. But from the time evacuation warnings were issued up to the appearance of the breach, the villagers were kept as guests by Hakim, a relatively well-off farmer who tills the patches of flat land within the property he has rented from Gujranwala settled Haji Ghulam Muhamamad. Shahbaz Khan, one of the first Sinawa village residents to move out, recalled how Hakim provided them shelter and food for two days. “He allowed us to stay on his lands and gave us milk,” he said, adding that then the PPAF came and set up its tent village on August 8. “Since then we are getting cooked meat and medicine.”
The story of Tiba Jamalwala (‘Tiba’ is a term for ridge in Seraiki) is no different. This 25-acre landmass, about three kilometres from Raqba Rauf, is owned by Sunwara Khan Chandya who sheltered about 50 villagers before the PPAF identified the spot and helped Chandya expand the camp to 260 people.
“This is one of our model camps,” said Rafiullah, pointing towards a medical facility set up inside Chandya’s two-room house. The PPAF has set up medical camps in collaboration with the FPAP. Explaining the concept of model camps, Munzir Elahi said, “Providing food and shelter is not all. The kind of disaster the place has endured means these people would not re-settle any time soon. Keeping that in mind we are in process of setting up facilities like sewing schools for women and kindergartens and playgrounds for children at our camps.”
Tiba Jamalwala has one such sewing school. It is being supervised by Rukhsana Parveen, a Baseera resident and a college graduate. Though a flood-victim herself, Parveen is hopeful of establishing a school for children at the camp, “I taught children at Gulshan Public School in Jhara Chandya how to work on computers.”
The other model camp, at Peer Musa, has a school and a playground for the 318 children residing there. Dr Shafiq Durain is supervising this facility. He manages a Britain-based NGO working to provide education to poor children in Multan. Balamuri, the NGO, has a network of local volunteers who are helping Dr Durain ‘keep the children busy in productive activities’. “We have divided students according to their age groups. Based on that, we have set up a playgroup, a kindergarten and a primary section,” he said, pointing towards the three different groups of children and Balamuri volunteers.
“At the very least, this helps the children spend time in productive activities,” a volunteer said in response to a query about the sustainability of the venture. “It cannot be discarded. We can turn it into an opportunity to provide these children with quality education facilities,” Dr Durain said. “But that’ll require long term financial support. Unicef and the likes only talk, they never come forward when it comes to action.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2010.
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