SUKKUR: Two-year-old Mir Mohammad was crying because he wanted popcorn.
But popcorn is among the long list of things that most flood survivors cannot possibly afford.
“I don’t have any money,” said 28-year-old Nasiba Khuda Bukhsh helplessly, “My kids can’t go and buy sweets and biscuits,” she said, gesturing at the young boy selling popcorn in the relief camp, set up near Sukkur Bypass.
Nasiba is among thousands who fled from Ghauspur after floods hit the city. Her husband, Khuda Bukhsh Shaikh, had gone to Sukkur city to look for work.
Life is hard here, said the young woman, cradling her six-month-old son, Ali, who she said was suffering from gastroenteritis. Even though the camp management has given them medicines, they don’t seem to work, she complained.
Their needs right now are basic - while water and food is more or less taken care of, clothes are desperately needed.
All of them had just one pair of clothes, which the mother scrubbed during the night and hung out to dry so the children could wear them again in the morning.
“Last night it rained,” she said, “The tent was soaked and everything inside was dripping wet, it was terrible.”
Another survivor at the camp, Mai Zainab had her own complaints, most of them directed at the management of the camp. The mother of 11 children said, “The management treats us like stepchildren. When the vehicle with cooked food comes, all the women get pushed aside because the men fight their way forward.”
Two days ago somebody pushed an old woman, who fell on the ground and displaced her knee joint. “She had to be admitted to a hospital,” Zainab said angrily.
The management should ask men and women to make separate lines so that everybody would get their share. They can also just provide food to each family in their tent, she suggested.
However, Zainab did admit that they were getting good food. Qorma and naan at noon and chicken biryani in the evening, she said. But we need milk and clothes for our children, she added quickly.
Soon after Zainab’s story, a Suzuki van carrying cooked food drove into the camp. Everyone grabbed their utensils and rushed towards it. Four degs of qorma were unloaded along with packets of naan. At first an unseemly line formed but Zainab’s words were proved true when within minutes, the line somehow burst into a crowd of angry, clawing people, all scared of not getting their share.
A little girl holding a small bucket in her hands succeeded in getting qorma but her luck ended when she tried to get naan. A shove here, a push there and the girl was sprawled on the ground, the brown gravy that was to feed her family slowly seeping away into the dirt.
“Chacha, give me more qorma!” the girl was up on her feet but the man handing out the food pushed her away. Her persistence did pay off when another person intervened and more food was dished out for her.
However, not everyone was as lucky. When the food finished, there were many who had gotten none. Angry murmurs and voices were heard as the IDPs accused the management of an inefficient distribution process.
“If this condition persists for another week, I will die of hunger,” Bhag Bhari Lashari complained, “Last night I managed to get some biryani, which was not enough for my family of nine.”
Lashari’s family had been in the camp for the past ten days and the family barely got to have two meals a day, she added.
Many flood survivors at the camp suggested that families should get their own ration of wheat, flour, oil and other necessary items so they could just cook their own food.
“That way, everybody could get their due share of food,” Lashari said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2010.
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