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Floods, mud and desperate measures

09 Sep 2010

Pakistan flood victims seen from an army helicopter. (c) REUTERS/Adrees LatifBack in Pakistan to support our team here.

Ten minutes to landing at Sukkur airport in Sindh province and as far as the eye can see, which is pretty far at 6,000ft, the ground is covered with water. Only an occasional house or group of trees sticking out from the water belies the fact that this isn’t some vast lake or sea.

As the aircraft begins a slow turn, the water gives way to a huge area of mud now drying and cracking in the 40°C heat and finally some greenery and the arable land fortunate not to have been inundated by the floods.

For local farmers whose land has not been affected, prospects are good with the sky being the limit for what they will be able to charge for their crops once they are harvested. For their neighbours who have lost everything the situation is bleak with desperate measures being perhaps their only coping mechanisms.

One report has a farmer selling his twelve year old daughter into marriage with a truck driver for the price of transportation for him and his family to another family member’s farm perhaps only 60 miles away.

On the drive from the airport into town people not lucky enough to get a tent in one of the relief camps sit under some of the slim trees that line the road. These don’t give much protection form the midday sun but it’s better than nothing.

If they are lucky they have managed to salvage a charpoy (local bed made of wood and hemp rope) or have been given a plastic sheet to tie to some sticks and this is now a home for a family of seven. No clean water, no latrines, no chance for the women to wash, it looks dreadful and is probably worse.

We reach Sukkur town which has not been affected but in Sindh, already one of the poorest areas in Pakistan this is not saying that much. The poverty even before this disaster is all too evident and let’s just say that this would not be a place that would make your top ten list of places to visit, if not that is for the warmth, generosity and resilience of the people.

People who previously had next to nothing are now willing to share what little they have with the internally displaced people who have fled from this literally biblical flood.

(Photo courtesy REUTERS Alertnet www.alertnet.org)

Read the latest news on HelpAge's response to the Pakistan floods.

Read more about our emergencies work.

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Author profile

Jonathan Barden
Country: UK
Job title: Emergencies coordinator

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.