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Desiree Francis
Thursday, August 18, 2011
From Print Edition
 
 

 

Around 240 kilometres from the metropolis, people residing in UC Kothi’s Aloo Mallah village still suffer in the aftermath of last year’s devastating floods and remain estranged from their elected representatives who have failed to rehabilitate their lives or provide protection from this year’s monsoon rains.

 

Narrating her tale of survival from the 2010 floods, Bacchi, a frail and aging resident of Aloo Mallah, said that they fled their lands with nothing except their lives and clothes on their backs.

 

The village head and its namesake, Aloo Mallah, told The News that NGOs like the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), Pakistan Islamic Relief Fund, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have lent a helping hand since the disaster struck over a year ago. According to him, apart from Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Ghafoor Memon, who donated one month’s rations in Badin, no state representative has come to their aid or even paid them so much as a visit.

 

“If NGOs were a political party, we’d vote for them,” said Bacchi. While they remain grateful for all they have received from various organisations over the past year, residents cannot help but feel abandoned by their government.

 

Village resident, Essa, fears what would become of them if another flood were to sweep through their locality, which was the situation in other parts of interior Sindh. “We would be in the same position as we were a year ago. We need roads, a proper roof over our heads, a source of income and also some security,” he said. Fearing another disaster may be heading their way, the village community are pleading for protection at this most vulnerable time.

 

Refusing to wait on the government for help and determined to take matters into their own hands, people are looking for ways to protect themselves.

 

Helping people in this regard are organisations like PFF, Oxfam and UNDP, which have introduced Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programmes in several villages in interior Sindh. It adopts a systematic approach to reducing the risks of disaster as well as the socio-economic vulnerabilities that come along with such incidents.

 

As the monsoon cycle is in full spate once again, many areas across the country lie at the risk of reliving the devastation that occurred last year. Twenty-four kilometres from Aloo Mallah lies the community of Ishaque Thaheemore, which has been trained under the DRR programme.

 

“Under this system, villagers are trained in emergency relief and response, reducing risk, first aid and emergency resource management to increase their coping capacity,” said PFF Project Manager Yaseen Tunio.

 

Razia Thaheemore, a village resident, said that the training given to them by the PFF in collaboration with Oxfam as well as the European Commission has benefitted the community immensely, and villagers now felt that they were prepared to handle another flood. “What has the government given us? Nothing! The PFF gave us a flood warning and helped us throughout the month,” she added.

 

Razia along with other women has also been trained in how to assist women in times of disaster. These community members, along with PFF social worker Roshan Bano, help raise awareness among women and children about basic health and hygiene so as to reduce incidence of disease.

 

The programme’s main objective is to make communities more resilient in disaster management and it has proved to be fairly successful, which was evident from DRR’s results in Razia Thaheemore. Residents have been provided with houses, alternate sources of livelihoods, first aid training and appear to be less vulnerable to emergency situations.

 

“While our village has no ambulances, hospitals, roads or communication, this training has at least enabled us to save ourselves from disaster,” said village resident Dhani. She added that in the event that a community member fell sick, villagers did not stand helpless in the absence of medical assistance.

 

With the recent floods that have devastated many parts of interior Sindh, the need to protect these vulnerable communities is evidently clear. Key institutional actors and stakeholders need to work together to establish an effective disaster risk reduction framework.