South Asia

Pakistan flood survivors struggle to cope

Children, displaced by floods, sit outside their makeshift tent at a roadside in Pakistan's Sindh province
Image caption Many children are among those displaced by the flooding

While the rains have stopped, the misery continues to mount for the people of Pakistan's Sindh province.

Most of the south of the province remains under water.

At least 22 districts have been labelled disaster zones, most of them on the left bank of the River Indus.

This region largely escaped the wrath of the waters in 2010.

But the rains, according to government officials, have led to destruction which in some place is greater than last year's.

At least six million people have been affected with half a million having lost everything. At least 269 people are already confirmed to have died.

Ehsan Ali is one of those affected. He and his family currently occupy a few square meters of space in a government camp in Hyderabad.

Ten days ago, they were at home in the Pangrio sub-district of Badin.

"We had no advance warning of the floods. The breach took place within hours," he recounts.

"First, we stayed put as everything we owned was there. But the water just kept on rising. Finally we had to flee.

"For several days we stayed out in the open before we made it here to Hyderabad."

Those days have taken a toll on Ehsan's family, especially his young son, Ashiq.

The five-year-old slept listlessly during the interview and has been unwell for two days.

Image caption Residents have worked together to rescue the vulnerable

"It's diarrhoea and fever," explains Ehsan.

"I've taken him to a doctor in town. They just distribute two tablets per person here at the camp."

It is not just the medical facilities that are lacking here.

Food and tents remain in short supply, especially as refugees from last year's major flooding remain in the camp.

At least 20 million people across Pakistan were affected and the shocking images of that disaster were broadcast around the world.

Hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of aid poured in.

But little of this has filtered down to the ground, as farmer Abdul Hameed explains.

"The government actions are just like the elephants in the old proverb: 'Different teeth for show and different for eating,'" he says

"They talk about all the money that's been spent but people like us have yet to see any of it."

Hameed is a tenant farmer from the district of Nawabashah, which he fled with thousands of other in 2010.

Since then he and his family have been living in a relief camp.

"The government did provide us with some relief initially but that dried up in a month.

"Since then I have been working as a labourer in Hyderabad or as an aide for local NGOs that visit the camp.

"The government is nowhere to be seen. We don't even have basic medical care here.

"As far as rehabilitation is concerned there has been none. The bigger landlords or politicians have used the funds to replenish their losses.

"Just look at my village. Only three families have returned after all this time."

That is one big reason that international aid agencies were reluctant to rush in when the rains began this year.

Corruption hotlines

Questions about where the money went are not just being asked on the ground.

Some international donor agencies have set up hotlines and used advertising to root out corruption.

A huge hoarding by USAid in Karachi displays a free number for callers who want to give information about aid fraud.

While not specifically targeted at the funds for last year's floods, most complaints seem to relate to that event.

Increasingly, these involve government officials.

But while no inquiry has been instituted into these complaints, they are growing louder.

"The government officials keep all the rations for themselves," says Lal Khatoon, another refugee from the floods in 2010.

"Our children have to get by on one meal a day while they continue to line their pockets. My family has been living in a camp for a year and things are increasingly desperate for us.

"We lost everything and all the government gave us was a few ration cards that lasted a month."

It is because of these factors that many believe international agencies were slow to act this year.

The government, according to locals, remains missing as usual.

"We have always voted for the PPP (Pakistan's ruling party) here," says Ehsan.

"But when the waters came there was no-one to get us out."

Hundreds of thousands of people across Sindh share similar sentiments.

It is a fact that has now registered with the government.

But for the refugees like Ehsan and Hameed it is too little too late.

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