MULTAN: Balasar village, home to 130 families, lies 3km away from River Chenab. Its proximity to the river puts it in the path of devastating floods each year, making it one of the hardest-hit villages in Muzaffargarh district. The residents of Balasar recall with a foreboding the floods of 2014 which washed away nearly the entire village, causing trauma and losses the residents are yet to recover from.
The worst-hit are the elderly, the physically disabled and widows, who have no alternative leg up in the aftermath of natural calamities.
Azeem Khatoon, 70, used to teach the Holy Quran to children in Balasar in a tiny house on the fringes of the village. After her separation from her husband, the community provided her sustenance. The monsoon showers of September 2014, swept away her house and with it any chance of getting back up on her feet. Several young people in the village had gotten together and patched up her house but Khatoon had lost all her belongings and savings.
HelpAge, an NGO working with the elderly and the disabled in calamity-hit areas, reached out to Khatoon and gave her an unconditional cash grant of Rs24,000. “The money went a long way in helping me meet my needs…I got medicines for my failing eyesight, food and bought a cow,” she said. The NGO was a blessing for Khatoon and several elderly people in her area. “I never thought there would be hope for me after the floods.” HelpAge has been working for several years in Muzaffargarh district with support from the German embassy. Ghulam Raza, the project coordinator, said his organisation provided the vulnerable segments of the society unconditional and conditional cash grants that were meant to provide the poor a second chance at life.
Raza said the unconditional cash grant was given to elderly people who lived alone and could not get jobs because of age, health or other infirmities. “We gave grants to 86 people – 51 women (44 of them widows) and 35 men (23 of them physically disabled) – in the village.” They were given Rs24,000 each.
Those who receive conditional cash grants are selected based on how much they lost in the floods, explained Raza. For example, households that had lost their source of livelihood in the floods were given money to purchase the necessary equipment to get back up on their feet. The NGO selected 581 flood victims for conditional grants – 273 men, 73 of them were physically disabled, and 308 women, 181 of who were widows.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2016.