Helpless and hungry, flood victims wage a battle they can’t win alone

‘People are dying hungry, why is the government doing this to us’


Kamran Yousaf/Rizwan Shehzad   September 07, 2022
Tragedy is all around in Kambar-Shahdadkot, one of the most-affected districts of Sindh. PHOTO: EXPRESS

QAMBER-SHAHDADKOT:

It’s a road that looks like a passage through the ocean.

The road from Sukkur to Kambar-Shahdadkot appeared to be the only dry area as floodwaters have not only demolished houses, destroyed crops, washed away animals but the stagnant water is still occupying lands and as long as the eye can see on the both sides of the road.

Tragedy is all around in Kambar-Shahdadkot, one of the most-affected districts of Sindh, due to the torrential rains and flash floods. The poverty-stricken people are now fighting a battle with hunger, diseases, heat, and authorities’ sheer negligence.

For miles, people have been left on their own. They do not have tents, food and clean drinking water. The flood-affected people and animals bath and drink from the stagnant waters standing for days. Mothers bathed their babies in the dirty water, too, while washing clothes. Lack of sanitation is further aggravating their miseries.

In Qubo Saeed Khan, peoples’ eyes welled up when they pointed out that the government-owned wheat stock located at an arm’s length first got destroyed in the rains and has now started to stink because of the floodwaters but they were not allowed to use it.

Despite the tall claims of the authorities concerned – ranging from Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to the provincial bigwigs and from the national and provincial disaster management authorities, (NDMA & PDMA) to the local administration, the most common complaint of the people was a one liner: no one has come to help us from the government side yet.

The authorities specifically tasked to provide relief were nowhere to be seen, the statements appeared to be mere eyewash and the aerial visits have yet to go beyond optics.

Most of the people had erected tents with the help of charpoys. They have spent days in a makeshift tent under scorching heat without having even two meals for a day. Though the authorities have breached roads, including the one connecting Sindh to Balochistan, yet the fields spreading on acres present a look of enormous lakes.

Apart from not having proper tents, the biggest issue right now is not having clean drinking water; people are drinking contaminated water; water-borne diseases are on the rise; and children are the hardest hit among them.

Several people alleged that even tents were sold for Rs3,500, adding that they haven’t received the government-announced Rs25,000. “People are dying hungry, why is the government doing this to us,” said Qurban Ali. “What is our fault, what have we done.”

Qurban like many others was furious at the elected representatives, saying they haven’t visited them let alone providing any relief. “No one from the government has come to see us yet,” he said. “If anyone claims that he has come here then you can hold us accountable.”

People said that those who visited preferred to speed through.

“Even a bigger tragedy is unfolding,” a doctor in the government-run hospital told The Express Tribune. Since he was a government employee therefore he did not want to be identified to avoid any trouble.

But he wants that the message is sent to the authorities and the outside world that soon people, particularly children, will start dying here.

“The biggest issue is lack of clean drinking water. In the last 2 days alone 3 children have died because of water-borne diseases,” the helpless doctor said. “Please take this urgent message to the high-ups. Tell them to do something,” he said, in a desperate appeal.

Only two days ago, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited Shadatkot along with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. He took an aerial view of the devastation and later distributed cheques and other relief goods among the flood-affected people.

Notwithstanding the images of the prime minister with the flood victims, there were no or little signs of any government effort on the ground. Over a 100-kilometre stretch, there was only one small relief camp visible which was set up by the PDMA. Even the camp was located at a place where there were hardly any victims could be seen.

While the federal and provincial authorities blamed the record rains this monsoon season for the catastrophe, locals insist that it was the provincial government responsible for the disaster.

“When our area was being flooded, we desperately looked for help from the Irrigation Department but they said it was not their job,” Zarar Khan Mengal told The Express Tribune, while pointing to the damaged and destroyed houses in his village.

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