Islamabad, Pakistan — As heavy rains continue and floodwaters wreak havoc across Pakistan, engulfing entire villages and huge swathes of farmland, the American Red Cross is sending $150,000 worth of tarps, blankets and kitchen items to help 5,000 families, in addition to the $100,000 in immediate financial support provided last week.
“As the flood waters move further south, we are concerned that dams and embankments may breach, causing the situation to worsen,” says David Meltzer, senior vice president of International Services at the American Red Cross. “We hope to get these supplies to families in Pakistan as quickly as possible and will continue to provide assistance to our partners on the ground.”
The government now estimates that more than 12 million people have been affected by the flooding that stretches for more than 600 miles along the Indus River.
In Nowshera town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Jamroz Khan and his two sons are trying to salvage whatever possessions they can from two feet of stinking mud that the receding floods left behind in their home. Jamroz was lucky to escape with his life.
“I fled when the water was waist high, but it rose so fast, even the police boats that were evacuating people could not move against the current,” he says. His son Ali was not so lucky. He became trapped in the house as the waters rose 15 feet up the walls. He was marooned on the roof for two days until a passing boat came to his rescue.
Jamroz’s story is typical of some 450,000 families in Nowshera, one of the worst affected districts in the country. The force of the floods has left his home uninhabitable. Walls have crumbled, furniture lies mangled and smashed and the household grain supply is totally ruined. “This was our food stock for the entire year. The crops in my field, all my money – the floods took it all.”
At a nearby food distribution carried out by the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, Jamroz doesn’t seem to be bothered as he’s jostled by a crowd when he tries to secure his one-month ration of wheat flour, cooking oil, lentils and salt. The distribution is tightly controlled. People are called in one by one through a small door which opens into a large compound where they pick up their supplies and leave by another door.
“People are desperate here. This is the first relief they have received in a week and we have to careful in case things get out of control and the supplies are looted,” explains Syed Ali Hassan, provincial secretary of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society branch in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The challenges for the Red Crescent are immense and they haven’t escaped the disaster unscathed. Most of the relief items stored in their main provincial warehouse in Nowshera have suffered flood damage. Thousands of sodden tents, blankets, kitchen sets and other materials now sit marooned in four feet of water.
Editorial contributions provided by Eric Porterfield, senior press officer for the American Red Cross.