First Person

After the flood, silence

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Photo: Jane Beesley / Oxfam
Photo: Jane Beesley / Oxfam

Oxfam’s Jane Beesley is in Pakistan, where the devastating floods have now affected 21 million people. Here’s an excerpt from her latest report from the field.

We have heard from Islamabad that there are rumors the flood is receding in Shikarpur and other areas in Sindh Province. … [But] once in the rural areas we soon see that the water has only gone down by a few inches. There’s a very long way to go.

We stop and have a brief chat with some people, living under plastic sheeting, close to the roadside. A local man tells us it will be at least a month before the waters go down to normal levels.  We go as far as we can before the road disappears under water. 

The floodwater here doesn’t look dramatic; no gushing, roaring torrents, strong currents sweeping all before it. This is a plain area and the water lies flat and still. A row of telegraph poles stretch out into to the distance, strangely marooned, casting shadows in the still water surrounding them. There are remains of mud houses crumbling and dissolving in the water.

In places we can see small green shoots poking out of the water; these are the rice fields. The crop, just weeks from being harvested, has been totally lost. Rice is the main crop in this area, and with only one crop a year the flood is a devastating blow after months and months of hard work. There will not be another rice harvest until this time next year, and only then if people can return home, are able to clear the land, buy seed and plant in time. …

Right now, our team has two different jobs to do: To help people who are displaced and won’t be able to return home quickly; and to help those returning to destroyed homes and livelihoods, like these rice fields.

In the distance we see a few people living on a small patch of land.  They are probably staying there to protect what remains of their property, and livestock. Otherwise, what was once a thriving village has a slightly eerie air. Walking back up the road to the car, all we can hear are the birds.

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