The summer of 2010 produced the worst floods in the country’s history, killing hundreds of people and causing widespread destruction.
Amid the monsoon rains, the rising water of the Swat River swept away several areas along its both sides, destroying village after village.
The Bahrain Valley was the worst hit region of Swat, where over 200 houses were washed away, besides large-scale destruction of infrastructure.
Soon after the floods, several humanitarian organisations stepped forward to help the flood victims. A relief camp was set up to provide temporary accommodation to families who were left homeless by the floods.
However, one year later, most affected families are still residing in the relief camps, where they face several problems. Larger families living in small congested rooms are particularly disturbed by the ‘temporary’ setup.
“God knows how we have spent a whole year in this camp. We don’t have any other place to stay. We miss the time when we had our own house. I cannot stop crying whenever I remember those days, but I cannot do anything about it,” said an old lady narrating her miseries to The Express Tribune while preparing bread for her family.
She said that the authorities had repeatedly assured them that their houses would be rebuilt. However, none of the promises have turned out to be true.
“We cannot even afford a single bedroom for ourselves. It has been a very challenging year as most of the time we don’t even have anything to eat,” she said in a sorrowful voice.
When asked what she did for Eid, she replied bluntly, “We didn’t celebrate Eid. We just want to have our own house where we can live happily again.”
Saima, 10, who was sitting with a few other children at the camp, said, “When our house was wiped out by the floods, I did not know how bad it would be for us, but after living in the camp for a whole year, I can feel the difference. Our house was big and had everything. Now our family of 12 lives in a small room and there are so many fleas and bugs around.
However, the children have not lost hope and believe they will soon return to their homes.”God is there to help us,” said a child who was also sitting in the group with other children.
Ziyad Akbar, another victim, said, “Our lives took an abrupt turn on July 28. We spent that night under the open sky in heavy rain. Since then we have been living in uncertainty under great stress. We even spend days without food, and we have not been included in the Watan Card scheme either. Most of the cards have not been distributed to the deserving people”
Karim Zada, a local resident, said, “My house had 10 rooms, two halls and a guest room. Ever since the floods destroyed my house, we shifted to a school building initially, then to a tent village and now we are living in shelters which are as cold as ice during winters and hot as an oven in the summers.”
He said the government had not provided any assistance to the victims. However, some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) had approached them and offered to build single-room houses for them.
“The NGOs have asked us to purchase the land ourselves. We don’t even have money to buy bread. How can we purchase land under such circumstances?” he remarked.
When asked about his children’s future, he replied, “This is our present and our future. Our children’s future is gloomy and we are living at the mercy of God. Life in the shelters is also uncertain as the landowners can ask us to vacate the place any moment. We can only rebuild our lives if the government helps us in rebuilding our houses.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2011.