South Asia

Pakistan aid worker: 'The situation leaves me lost for words'

Millions of Pakistanis have been affected by the monsoon floods.

At least 1,500 people are known to have died, but others have also suffered from the devastation.

Some 40,000 Afghans were living in refugee camps that are now left in ruins. The floods have forced many of them to flee again.

Simon Worrall works for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Peshawar. Here he talks about his work and the damage the floods have caused.

Simon's story

I have been working in Pakistan since February. Prior to the floods, I worked with Afghans who had been displaced because of conflicts in Afghanistan, and also with Pakistanis because of the presence of the Taliban.

When I first heard about the floods, I was at home on leave in the UK. There was a delay in getting a return visa so I didn't get back to Pakistan until last Wednesday evening.

The next day I travelled to Peshawar. I saw the devastation and it was absolutely dreadful.

I have been working in this field for 11 years but the scenes here are horrific. The damage is so complete and immense.

The areas affected are small towns and villages. People have really lost everything including hope.

Prioritising help

On Tuesday, I'll be heading out to meet the beneficiaries of aid. I'll be involved in focus group discussions with elders and family members as well as displaced people, finding out from them what else can be done.

The NRC works on two programmes. One is the emergency response programme that looks at non-food items such as shelter solutions. We will be scaling this up as there is a huge need for shelter.

Another programme is information and legal assistance, looking at documentation issues and minor legal disputes. Proof of identification is important in this country so it is vital that help is given to the most vulnerable.

We also have a cross-border agreement with our counterparts in Afghanistan for Afghan refugees who want to return.

Before the floods, I was working 10 or 11 hour days at least six days a week. Today I started work at 0700 and finished around 2230 - I only stopped for an hour for food and a shower. These hours are typical in an emergency.

This is my first natural disaster as most of my work has been in conflict-related areas, so this is the first time I have seen anything this big and the situation leaves me lost for words.