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Pakistan floods: "Food is top priority"

05 Aug 2010

Asma Akbar, HelpAge's Country Programme Manager for Pakistan, has the latest update on the situation after the devastating Pakistan floods:

"I was in Jalazi camp today with Merlin and things there were not so bad. But in Nowshera things are really very, very bad.

"Food is the top, top priority. People are sitting there staring, clearly stunned and shocked. They are completely disorientated.

Many are shocked and traumatised

"Many of the people affected weren't poor beforehand - they had businesses and homes, but now they can't even find food. Older women seem totally isolated. This is a culture where women really aren't supposed to be publicly very visible so many are just remaining in their damaged homes, but younger women are running around trying to find food which is really not usual.

"Actually it seems to me that the men are more traumatised and shocked. I can't believe also how hot it is here. We expected the rain to cool things down but people, including the vulnerable and older are sitting outside with no shelter. Some people have found refuge in schools but they are just lying on the ground waiting.

No regular food distribution

"There is no regular or systematic food distribution yet. Some concerned individuals are driving from places like Islamabad with carloads of food but it is just being distributed on a first come first served basis, so those who are too weak can't get to the cars in time. Some of the food being distributed like naan is not suitable for some older people - they can't swallow it - they need softer food.

"I talked to one older man, a retired accountant of 70, who was desperately looking for food, running around with his ID card. He seemed strong - I asked if he can help in the relief efforts.

"He said: 'Yes, I can help - as soon as I get food, as soon as I can fill my stomach.' Other people feel deep shame in asking for anything. ‘We will not beg,' one older person told me, ‘we will wait until it comes.'

Most vulnerable not targeted

"There are some attempts to set up large cooking points so that people can serve up large quantities of food, but again it's not organised yet and the most vulnerable haven't been targeted."

Donate to the DEC Pakistan Floods appeal

Read more about HelpAge's work in Pakistan

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Asma Akbar

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