Nowhere to go

Hundreds of displaced people in upper Sindh are facing extreme difficulty in getting relief.


Salman Siddiqui August 12, 2010

BHIT SHAH: Hundreds of displaced people moving away from flood-hit areas in upper Sindh are facing extreme difficulty in getting relief upon reaching the lower districts of the province.

Seven poverty stricken families comprising over a hundred men, women and children, who had taken refuge at open fields in Bhit Shah said they were shocked that not only did they not get any help from official quarters, but were also being told that they were not welcome there.

“I thought that with the blessings of the saint we would find food and shelter here on the holy lands of Bhit Shah, but I guess we are destined to be doomed,” says Ihsan Ali, who migrated from Ghauspur with his family after losing all his belongings to the floods there. Ali was referring to one of Sindh’s most revered saints Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, whose shrine is located in the largest town of district Mattiari.

Bhit Shah comes under the constituency of Pakistan Peoples Party’s Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who only a day earlier had said during a visit to the area that he and his party would do everything in their power to help the flood affectees.

Haji Mohammad Ishaq said he had been travelling with his family for the last five days. “But now having reached here, we are being told that we should leave the district immediately and find shelter somewhere else,” he said. He, however, doesn’t know where else to go.

Mai Sugra said she lost two of her children in the floods. “I now fear the rest of my children will die of hunger and illness.” According to these seven families, they lost close to 23 relatives in the floods, including six women and as many children.

Qalander, 74, a resident of district Jacobabad, said his only brother Azizullah died in front of his eyes. “I wish his body is found soon so that I can give him a proper burial,” he said, forgetting the fact that at the moment he does not even have the resources to survive himself.

Officially, dozens of relief camps have been set up in districts like Mattiari in Sindh. Not far away on Bhanot embankment, which is one of the two main protection walls that come ahead of the Kotri Barrage, around 10 such camps have been set up close to the River Indus by the government and various political parties. However, most of them are just tent stops with men sitting idly on stools.

District Coordination Officer Mattiari Saqib Soomro in his defence says that the people from Ghauspur and Jacobabad should not be in his area in the first place. “I don’t understand why they are here. They could have gone to camps set up in Sukkur, Khairpur or Nawabshah which come on the way, but instead they’re here,” he said, adding that he has a very limited budget of Rs1,000,000 for relief efforts.

When told that perhaps it’s because people want to stay as far away as possible from flood-hit areas, Soomro dismissed the notion. “I don’t know who these people are. Maybe they are criminals who are camping out with their families here in order to gain some benefits from the government,” he said. He added that his administration has set up several camps already in the district and claimed that around 200 people in Saeedabad were being provided with food and medical care.

Chief Engineer Kotri Barrage Manzoor Shiekh says high floods are expected to hit Hyderabad and adjoining areas on Pakistan’s Independence Day, August 14. “It was expected to hit sooner, but we’ve observed that the inflow of water has been much lower than thought earlier,” Shiekh said. He added that the current figure stands at 200,000 cusecs upstream and 196,000 downstream at Kotri Barrage.

Meanwhile one of the few places where authorities were found to be very proactive was in the effort to secure the massive mansion of federal petroleum minister Naveed Qamar in Latifabad where truckloads of sandbags were placed all around keeping in view the flood threat in Hyderabad

Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2010.

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