SWAT: Recent floods in the country have also affected Shangla district in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where landslides and lightning devastated the lives of approximately 250,000 people. More than 450 people have been killed so far.
Unfortunately, people stricken by natural calamity are not being provided with proper relief, as district Shangla is being completely overlooked by humanitarian organisations and government authorities.
The entire area is cut off from the rest of the country, and faces a shortage of food and medicines.
Gulab Shahpori, general secretary of a local social organisation, told The Express Tribune that “500 families have been trapped, children are crying from hunger but their parents are unable to feed them.”
“A number of children have contracted diseases like cholera but the medicines to treat these ailments are not available,” he added. A social activist from UC Damorai, Faiz Mohammad told The Express Tribune that the area’s basic infrastructure had been washed away.
“The entire district, particularly Ghwarband area, is completely cut off from other parts of the country... No trace of infrastructure remains.”
He said the region faces a looming food crisis: “Every village has a dire need of food items and if we are not provided with food, thousands of people will die of starvation.”
Mohammad claimed that it would be solely the government’s responsibility if the crisis was not averted soon.
He said the only option left was to appeal to people’s humanity: “Food and medicines are very scarce. We don’t ask you to give us aid free of cost, but at least ask the authorities to provide food items to our shopkeeper so that we can buy these items and survive.”
Amir Maqam, provincial president of the Pakistan Muslim League criticised the government’s response to the disaster and said: “The government’s inefficiency has put people at risk. Famine could hit the area soon.”
Blaming local authorities, he said: “They don’t care for the affected people at all. They are busy selling wheat and oil.”
Shangla, situated at an elevation of 2,000-3,000 metres above sea level, is populated by about 500,000 people.
The area has the second lowest Human Development Index in the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2010.
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