“I could never forget that dreadful night,” says 35-year-old Mina Kadu, a resident of Pathan Goth, district Mirpurkhas, Sindh. Mina, whose child is barely two weeks old, met some extraordinary circumstances on her course of delivering her baby. “When flood hit our area I was full term. My home was destroyed and all my belongings including my ultrasound reports and baby bag were washed away,” tells Mina.
“It rained heavily that dark night when I had to go to the nearby government hospital to deliver my baby. My husband has arthritis, so he couldn’t accompany me. I was all alone and had no conveyance. And I had no money to even get a taxi. Amid struggling with bad weather, I managed somehow to come to the main road where a kind soul helped me and dropped me to the hospital in his car. When I finally reached the hospital, my BP was very high and my labour pains had already started but nobody came to check me. I delivered the baby naturally before even reaching the hospital bed. Seeing my bad condition, nurses and doctors rushed to attend me but by that time I was already drained out. After the doctors stabilised my condition, I was asked to get some tests done. Since I had no money, I collected the amount for the tests from different people who were in the hospital at that time. I am obliged to those kind people who helped me in time of my need. I was in the hospital for a day and then I was sent back,” narrates Mina.
“Since my home has been destroyed by flood, I am living in a makeshift tent now. With no light, no clean water and lots of mosquitoes around, living like this with my little baby is a constant struggle. I am still recovering from the shock of being mistreated at the hospital,” elucidates Mina.
Eight-month pregnant Dai Papu, another resident of Pathan Goth, is facing some real challenges. She had her last ultrasound done from a nearby government hospital when she was five months pregnant but she doesn’t think she will go for her check-up again. “My husband is a labourer but he has been out of job since June as there is no work going on in the fields right now because of heavy rains. We had some savings which we had kept for our baby but now all our money has gone. The flood has ruined our home and now we are living in a makeshift tent. Doctors have told me to eat fruits but in this situation when my husband and I barely eat, how can I afford to have fruits,” she utters with tears in her eyes. “I have become very weak. I don’t even have money to go for my next check-up. I am so scared. Time is ticking and soon I have to go for my delivery. Reaching the hospital will be an ordeal because of bumpy roads and water everywhere. I have no idea what will I do?” Dai expresses her apprehensions.
Hundreds and thousands of women like Mina and Dai are in distress as a result of recent floods in Sindh that have wreaked havoc in the region. This scribe talked to a number of poor women, in Pathan Goth, 50 km away from Mirpurkhas District, who are either pregnant or have already given birth; women who have lost their homes; women who have been abandoned without healthcare, food and clean drinking water to meet their nutritional needs.
On a drive at the National Highway from Karachi to Hyderabad to Tando Lalayar to Mirpurkhas and finally to our destination Pathan Goth, people could be seen living in makeshift tents on roadsides as their homes have been swept away. Most women living in tents are undernourished and are suffering with diseases and difficulties associated with stagnant water. According to The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), many of these women lack access to healthcare facilities and support which they need to deliver their children safely. But the floods have made a bad situation worse. Most births in Pakistan happen at home, and with almost one million homes destroyed, many women don’t know where they will deliver their babies. The extensive damage to roads and communication networks further hinders access to clinics and hospitals.
The devastation brought about by the monsoon floods has left millions displaced without food, clean drinking water, and shelter in Pakistan. After the massive destruction in several areas of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the floods inundated major districts of the Sindh province. Several villages in Dadu, Larkana and Mirpurkhas districts are fully submerged and thousands of adobe houses have been destroyed. People living in rural settlements rely on their livestock to make a living and floods have taken away all that people had. The only thing these communities are relying on is help from aid agencies or from the public sector. Humanitarian agencies like UNICEF, Red Crescent, Akhuwat, Islamic Relief (IR) Pakistan and others are playing an effective role in bringing aid to the flood victims.
While talking about the problems and the relief work IR Pakistan is doing in Pathan Goth, Malvina, a Community Development officer, explains, “The village is highly affected by the recent rains and many people including women and children have been displaced and are living in make-shift tents. They are mentally disturbed. There are so many women who are feeding their babies and they are the worst affectees. They are facing so many problems. In an emergency phase, we have given them immediate relief like distributing ration and have provided them basic house hold items and hygiene kits which include clean cloth pieces that women use during their periods as local women are unaware of sanitary napkins. They have no clue what pads are.”
I also got a chance to speak to Chandra, a 32-year-old community health worker who is quite vocal about women’s rights. She is one of the few educated women in Pathan Goth. She did Matric from Government Girls High School, Tando Ghulam Ali, District Badeen. She got married at an early age but soon her husband died but that did not deter her from completing her intermediate. She does stitching to make ends meet and also work with Women Empowerment Pakistan (WEP). “For the first time in my life I have witnessed such massive rains. There was so much water and since there is no drainage system, the water entered into our houses. The whole village was inundated. We lost so much of our valuables. We were in shambles. We were hopeful that the affluent and influential ones of our village would help us but sadly, they plainly refused to do anything for us and showed no compassion towards the downtrodden people of their own village,” regrets Chandra. “Fortunately, humanitarian organisations like IR came to our rescue. They supported us in our crucial times and are still supporting us in relief work,” expresses Chandra.
Malvina highlights another problem which the locals are facing. “Another problem they are facing is of contaminated water. The locals use pump water and now because of floods, that water is now mixed with dirt which is toxic to their health. After floods, you see stagnant water all over the place and that stagnant water is creating a lot of skin and water-borne diseases such as Dengue and Malaria.”
During torrential rains, many young women also lost their lives. Among the ill-fated ones, one was Harya. She was living happily with her seven children in a small house. Harya was poverty-stricken but was determined to give a good life to her children, however, little did she know that she couldn’t live long to raise her children. When her house was submerged in water as a result of extreme rains, Harya tried her best to save her home from drowning but she couldn’t succeed. She was already a TB patient and her fragile condition did not allow her to fight against mighty waves of water. There was panic like situation in the whole village so nobody paid attention to poor Harya; neither was she given any medical treatment. Eventually, she succumbed to death - leaving behind her seven children. It was devastating for the whole family. The biggest question was - who would take care of the children? Then Harya’s mother-in-law Shanti decided to adopt three children of Harya and the rest were given to relatives. “During ther torrent we had nothing to eat. We didn’t have patti to make tea or flour to make chapatis. It was a troubled period and losing Harya was the greatest shock for all of us. She was a brave soul and fought against her illness till her last breath. I miss my daughter-in-law; since I am poor myself I cannot afford to raise all seven children. Harya’s youngest child is only a few months old and is very weak. Even though he is my grandson, I will raise him as my own child,” vows a committed Shanti.
“These floods brought unprecedented damage to life and property. Being the very first responders, we knew the needs and sentiments. With the resilience being demonstrated by the people, we are hopeful of minimising the losses,” shares Hiba Siddiqui, Media and Communication Lead at IR Pakistan. “For their long term sustainability, in the second phase we are planning to give training to women in different domains/skills/crafts like stitching, embroidery so that they can stand on their own feet. And we have also conducted sessions regarding their rehabilitation,” she informs.
Where the torrent has wreaked havoc and hundreds and thousands have lost their homes, it has also taken away people’s happiness and has shattered their dreams. One story is of Harjani whose daughter’s dowry was washed away by the floods. In villages like Pathan Goth, it is customary for parents to start collecting dowry as soon as the daughter is born. They make savings out of their hard earned money. They are poor people so giving gold or jewellery in dowry is out of question. “I work in the fields. My husband is ill and my son is handicapped, hence I am the sole breadwinner of my family. I worked really hard to collect my daughter, Hameeda’s dowry,” speaks Harjani in a somber tone. “It wasn’t easy for me to arrange for dowry’s paraphernalia which consisted of house hold items, bed sheets and clothes. However, all her dowry drowned. Whatever we had, it is gone. Even my charpoy was submerged. I am heartbroken. This flood has snatched our happiness,” laments Harjani. “I am grateful to IR people who have provided us immediate relief. My daughter’s marriage is due next month but now I have nothing to give to her in the name of dowry. I cannot cancel this marriage, so it has been postponed and I have told my daughter’s in-laws to wait,” she adds. Despite all that, Harjani has not lost hope and she is determined to stand on her feet again and will restart collecting her daughter’s dowry.
According to Asif Sherazi, Country Director, IR Pakistan, “This is a mega disaster and no humanitarian organisation and government can tackle it alone. We are pushing for partnerships as they are vital in this need of the hour to save lives. We have reached more than 200,000 people till now and intend to assist half a million through our efforts. The course of action is to stay in these areas of Sindh and Baluchistan until rebuilding is finished and people take control of their lives.”
Erum Noor Muzaffar is the editor of You! magazine. She can be reached at