First Person

“We are here, empty-handed”

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“The floods that have surged from the north to the south of Pakistan since late July have uprooted millions of people. Many have lost their houses, their loved ones, and everything they own,” says Oxfam America’s Mike Delaney in our new video (above). Oxfam and our partners are rushing to reach survivors with clean water and sanitation before deadly waterborne disease compounds the disaster.

Millions of people. When you’re talking about numbers this big, it’s easy to think in abstractions. But each person affected by the floods has his or her own story to tell. In the excerpt below, Oxfam’s Tariq Malik shares the words of some of the people he’s met in Kot Mithan, a district of southern Punjab province hit hard by flooding from the Indus River.

“I am fifty years old and I have never seen Kot Mithan flooded. I never even heard of it,” says Jam Bugho, a small-scale cotton grower. “Scrabbling knee-deep through the water carrying two of my nephews on my shoulders, I have made it out of the village, along with my wife. Before we [left] my son went to look for cows, just to see if he could manage to take a few with him, if not all, but he did not return. We decided not to wait for him and joined others.”

“Is there any way to know what might have happened with my son? My buffalos, cows and my goats?” asks Bugho.

“We have been here [in a camp for displaced people] for two days,” says Khuda Bakhash, whose village in Wasti Hayderabad had been flooded. “We had to pay 100 Rupees ($1.17) to a private boat owner for each person. Most of our relatives are still [in our village]. The day we moved we had nothing to eat and you know well that children can’t sleep if they do not eat well. For two days we’ve been provided with meals twice a day by Oxfam.”

Mohammad Naeem, 27, of Wasti Kallar village, was also there with his whole family. “I got married just four years ago. I have three small children, an ailing mother, and a blind father. My wife is pregnant. There is water flowing where my home was. I have lost 20 acres of cotton crop and two acres of sugarcane. The water has swept away all the grain we had stored. I have lost my cows and goats too.

“When I asked the boat owner to help me get my cattle and some grain from the house which had not collapsed yet, he asked for 10,000 Rupees. I had no money, not even one third of what he was demanding. I offered him a goat but he refused. Then I approached the government rescue agency people, who refused on account that my village fell beyond its area of operation.

“So now we are here, in front of you, empty-handed. Look at the sky above and the hovering clouds; I have no place to hide these small innocent children and old parents if it rains now.”

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