Charity turns into chaos at Razzaqabad

One child was hurt when food distribution turned nasty and a stampede ensued on Wednesday.


Rehan Hashmi August 19, 2010

KARACHI: One child was hurt when food distribution turned nasty and a stampede ensued on Wednesday.

The relief camp in Razzaqabad is the biggest setup in Karachi for flood survivors. On Wednesday, a private textile industrialist’s attempt at charity went haywire due to mismanagement and fighting among the survivors. Thousands of people swarmed the truck, which had cartons containing milk powder, tea, flour, sugar, oil, pulses and other essential edibles. The industrialist went to the town municipal office first, where the distribution started.

However, within minutes the crowd surrounding the truck became so thick and disorganised that the men distributing the cartons started to throw down relief items at random. Men, women and children clawed at one another to grab the goods while some of the people even tried to climb up the truck to get their share. However, the men on the truck pushed the survivors back, lashing out at them with sticks.

A young child was injured in this chaos. He was taken to a medical camp nearby for treatment.

People complained that the government was not giving them anything. “We have no clothes and no food. There is no electricity in the camps, we spend night after night lying awake,” said one of the IDPs. Even if they make lines, their food is snatched, people complained.

The food situation has made people at the Razzaqabad relief camp desperate. While the stronger IDPs fight for the food, little children go for the scraps of food that fall on the ground, hurriedly stuffing anything they can into their pockets.

During one such distribution, a can of ghee was thrown at the crowd and it broke, driving people to bend down and scoop up the ghee in their palms.

Some of the IDPs sit at the side of roads, waiting for any vehicle with food to pass by.

One high-roof vehicle with milk and bottled water was forced to leave the camp area without distributing anything because men, women and children rushed to the car and surrounded it, frantically trying to get their hands on some food. After the incident, orders have been given that all vehicles carrying relief goods to the camp should be escorted by police and Rangers personnel.

“We do not have milk and other food items needed for children,” complained one flood survivor at the camp. “We have no other choice but to snatch and fight if we don’t want our children to starve.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2010.

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