Rana Malhi relates his experience of visiting Samaro town in Umerkot, which is among the worst-affected areas from this year’s monsoon floods.
I met 45-year-old Marwan Bai who is living with her husband and four children on a charpai attached with long sticks. She uses plastic bags to provide some semblance of a cover over her family from the incessant rain. They have been out in the open without resources for ten days already.
“We lost our house and all our things were washed away. The government has not provided us relief of any kind. We are forced to live under the open sky, while my children suffer from fever and skin diseases,” Bai told me.
Hundreds of people are living in extremely wretched conditions, with no access to even basic ration, except what is provided by philanthropists, social welfare organisations and other community organisations. Many of the flood victims are suffering from malaria, diarrhea and other infectious diseases.
Leelan, a 36-year-old mother of four, told me: “The government has provided tents and ration to a few selected people, while the rest of us don’t have access to clean drinking water. We are forced to drink impure water.” She said this while trying unsuccessfully to light a fire on wet wood to cook something for her children.
Samaro tehsil in Umerkot is one of the worst affected places from the recent floods. The Pakistan Meteorological Department has recorded 149 millimeters of rain in Umerkot since the start of the floods in August. This is much more than the amount of rain recorded during the 2011 floods. The Sindh government has declared it a “calamity affected area”.
The floods have destroyed people’s houses and crops, and killed livestock. At least four people have died, while many others are injured. Up to twenty-five thousand families are living under the open sky in Samaro alone.
Narshingh Das, a 55-year-old flood victim, recounted to me how he had to rescue his family from three feet of water at midnight, while the flood destroyed his house and household stuff and killed his livestock. “It was raining torrentially and we had no resources to come out and nobody was around to help. I managed to rescue my five children and wife and we have been living on the road since, without any shelter or meal,” he said.
The plight of the victims is increased all the more because of the presence of hordes of mosquitos around them. There is a high risk of the spread of malaria, while the COVID-19 pandemic has not yet abated. Women are suffering especially hard as there are no toilets or private spaces where they can go to relieve themselves.
There are reports that Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari visited the flood-affected areas and gave assurances on behalf of the government to provide relief. In the five days since their visit, the victims have yet to receive any aid from the Sindh government.
I met Suresh Malhi who is a local journalist also covering the whole flood situation. He told me that the area we were in had long been declared a high-risk area in the event of rainfall. He said that the government was responsible for not taking effective steps to prevent this catastrophe. One of the main reasons floods happen here every year is because influential people are illegally occupying the sewer areas and they divert the rainwater down toward the slums area, he said.
“If the government ends the illegal takeover of sewer areas by these influential people, the water will drain in two days from these flood-prone areas and then there will never be such catastrophes in the rain seasons”, he added.
I approached the district administration to collect some more information about the flood-affected families. Deputy Commissioner Nadeem-ur-Rehman Memon told me that more than one hundred thousand families were affected by the flood in district Umerkot and the district administration had asked for sixty thousand tents and twenty-five thousand ration bags from the government for affected families. They have also demanded to be supplied with medical equipment.
“We have rescued many families and shifted them to safe places, but a few families do not want to leave their village and come to a safe place so now they are living on roads,” the DC said. “We have distributed ration and tents among more than half of the affected families, and are continuing to distribute these,” he added.