Various areas in upper Swat badly affected by the 2010 floods either remain invisible to humanitarian agencies or are deliberately neglected by the government.
Syed Koma, a far-flung village in Aharey, Matta tehsil, 55 kilometres from Mingora, was among the worst affected by the 2010 floods. The sole suspension bridge in the area, which connected five other villages, was also washed away, leaving some 5,000 people stranded.
The village lacks every basic facility of life. The only land link to the five villages is a dirt track which villagers use to fetch water from springs and streams.
“This area has never been visited by elected representatives, Haji Shireen, a local elder, told The Express Tribune. “We have not even seen any government official here.” The people living here are very poor and thus ignored by government departments, he added. “We had a suspension bridge which was a lifeline for Syed Koma, Bishagram, Hussainabad, Bella and Ochar villages, but it was wiped out by the floods, leaving residents of the five villages at the mercy of God. No MNA or MPA has shown any concern for us,” Shireen said.
Akbar Khan Shamezai, a resident of Syed Koma, was of the same opinion and said due to the loss of the bridge, they face myriad problems. “Our children find it difficult to get to school, our women are challenged in carrying out daily chores and above all our sick and elderly often expire on the way to the hospital.”
A bridge connecting the five villages will be built by the Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) in collaboration with Citi Foundation.
“As long as there is disunity among people of an area, nothing can be done. Real strength lies in collective action, for which unity is the first step. Today, you showed unity and interest in solving your issues, and humanitarian organisations came to your doorstep.” Ehsanullah Khan, a member of SRSP, said while addressing a ceremony for the construction of the bridge. Commissioner Malakand Dr Fakhre Alam, DCO Kamran Rehman and Assistant Commissioner Naeem Akhtar attended the ceremony at Syed Koma village.
“Communities coming together to take on shared responsibilities deserve to be appreciated. We are here with you because you collectively took a step and invited us,” he said.
Getting organised at village level is of great importance. Organisation and unity make everything possible, he added. “If you are organised, all your issues will be solved one by one.” Dr Alam thanked SRSP for initiating community-shared projects.
He handed over a cheque to a local village organisation for the construction of the bridge. Locals seemed much obliged and thanked SRSP and Citi Foundation for supporting the project. Later, the government officials visited newly built boys’ and girls’ schools and an RCC bridge at Durushkhela village which was also constructed by SRSP.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2011.