Many villages along the coast of Sindh remain deprived of basic facilities
Life along the coastal belt of Sindh is not easy. With little income and many mouths to feed, Masi Sakina, 62, lives in a one-room straw hut she built with her late son, Nazir Ali, who passed away at 30 years of age after battling cancer for several years. Since then, Sakina has been the only guardian to Nazir’s three children and his widow.
Since Nazir’s demise, she has taken on herself the duties that her son had borne. She leaves her hut early in the morning to collect firewood. She sells it at the nearby villages, returning home late in the evening. At home, her daughter-in-law, Naziran, takes care of the household chores and the children.
About her daily toil and hardship, Sakina says, “My husband died some 15 years ago. Since last year, my only son is also in the safekeeping of Allah. There is no male member left in our family to support us. I live with my son’s family. I cannot see them go unfed. That is why I go to work every day.”
Masi Sakina’s village Kandaro, situated 50 kilometres south of Badin, close to the Arabian Sea, consists of some 55 households of the Mallah community. Not a single house/hut in this settlement is well built. It is a village of straw huts. The area lacks basic infrastructure, including proper roads, schools, electricity, safe drinking water and health facilities.
“Anyone who visits our village is shocked to see the state we live in. Our circumstances are troubling,” says Sakina. There is not a single literate person in the village of some 500, except Akber Mallah. Everyone in Kandaro depends on Akber to read out news, doctor’s prescriptions, and wedding invitations for them. He happens to have completed primary education. “Access to education is limited in this region. I used to walk 8 kilometres to a bus stop to reach Seerani Town, which is around 20 kilometres away,” says Akber.
“Access to education is quite limited in this region. I used to walk 8 kilometres to a bus stop to reach Seerani Town, around 20 kilometres away, to go to school,” says Akber.
He adds, “it was a back-breaking and expensive daily routine for a poor student. So, I left school in the middle.”
There is no healthcare facility in the vicinity of this village. If there is an emergency, they have to transport the patient to a hospital 22 kilometres away on a motorcycle rickshaw. “Many have lost their lives trying to get to a hospital,” says Sakina.
A majority of the village’s men go into nearby forests daily to collect firewood, which they sell in other towns to earn bread for their families. Women take care of the children and often walk six kilometres to the nearby village to bring drinking water.
Ameena Mallah, 35, says, “some ten years ago, an NGO came to our village and installed a hand pump. However, the water turned brackish after a few months. Since then, no efforts have been made to make our lives easier. We walk to nearby villages and fetch water which we use for cooking and drinking.”
Seventy four-year-old Ibrahim Mallah remembers the better days, “this was a prosperous region some 30 years ago, but the cyclone of 1999, followed by the 2010-11 floods changed the region. Soomra shakh (canal) that used to provide water to the area has dried up since 2011. There was plenty of fish available in local freshwater lakes that have all been destroyed. In those days, we also used to cultivate our lands, which now have turned barren,” he says.
The conditions do not affect the affluent.
As soon as a call to prayer is heard, Masi Sakina gets up to say her prayers.
Their children do not have proper winter clothes. The harsh days are upon them but the residents of Kandaro continue to smile through their misery. They do not complain. Still, someone needs to take notice and alert the authorities who must ensure that the poor of Kandaro, and other villages like it, are provided at least basic facilities.
The writer is a freelance journalist based in Sindh, and can be reached at abbaskhaskheli110 @gmail.com