Flood victims in many parts of Balochistan, especially in the Naseerabad division, are still waiting for help
lmost a month after floods wreaked havoc in Balochistan, the ground situation is far from satisfactory. Victims in many parts of Balochistan, especially in the Naseerabad division are still waiting for help. While civil society, NGOs, and private donors are doing their best to help the affected people, the role of government has been abysmal. At times the government has proven a hurdle to relief work.
According to the data shared by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), so far 300 people have died and 181 have been injured due to flash floods and rains. Apart from the damage caused to the houses and infrastructure more than 500,000 livestock heads have perished. Rearing livestock is the backbone of the economy in rural Balochistan. The damage to farmlands and fruit orchards has also been unprecedented. There are no reliable figures available because the damage yet to be documented.
According to social workers on the ground, the Balochistan government has failed to make a case for unprecedented damages due to floods, unlike the Sindh government. Local and international media are highlighting the losses suffered by the people in Sindh because the Sindh government has provided them the data. In the case of Balochistan, the public relations machinery has failed to provide the information.
In Balochistan, Naseerabad has been the centre of flood relief activity because it was the most affected region. The area is known as the food basket of Balochistan. Most of the rural areas in the Naseerabad, Jaffarabad, and Sohbatpur districts of this division are still submerged. There are still some areas where relief goods have not reached due to mobility issues. There are still a lot of people who have camped on dry land after being dislocated from their homes by the floods. Most of them are without shelter.
Even the people living in tent settlements are facing a lot of problems. Malaria and diarrhea are the biggest health challenges currently.
“The deaths among the flood victims are not reported properly. The Health Department has completely failed to do its job,” says Hameeda Noor, a social worker who is actively involved in relief work in the Naseerabad division. “Children are suffering from malnutrition and adults are dying due to snake bites because there is a shortage of anti-snake venom medicines.”
The districts adjacent to Quetta have also been affected due to the floods. Crops and orchards have been wiped out in Mastung, Pishin and Qila Saifullah. Agricultural fields here were the only source of livelihood for millions of people. Floods have destroyed them altogether.
Noor says that depression and anxiety are common among flood-affected people. “We have seen an increase in domestic violence among the families living in the tents. There have been instances of sexual harassment. A lot of people are living together in unprecedented circumstances,” she tells TNS.
An administrative failure on the part of the government machinery has exacerbated the problems. In Naseerabad, the district administration has prohibited all social workers from engaging in relief work without obtaining a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the administration. “The process of getting an NOC is cumbersome and in some places intimidating. Many individuals and small-scale social worker organisations have stopped relief work. It’s a travesty,” complains Noor. She says that in Jaffarabad district there is no deputy commissioner. This has paralyzed relief work in that district.
The districts near Quetta have also been affected due to the floods. Crops and orchards have been wiped out in Mastung, Pishin and Qila Saifullah and adjoining areas. The agricultural fields were the only source of livelihood for millions of people. The floods have destroyed them altogether.
Manzoor Ahmed, a local journalist who has visited the flood-affected areas of Mastung paints a dismal picture. “In the Killi Qalandrani area of Mastung, all residents have lost their houses and belongings. Now, they are waiting in camps for government aid,” he tells TNS. Ahmed says that floodwater is still standing and will take quite some time to drain. “People have started rebuilding their homes on a self-help basis. Support by the government is lacking,” he says.
Additionally, the floods have badly affected connectivity with other provinces. The main highways connecting Quetta with Karachi, Sukkur, Dera Ghazi Khan, and Dera Ismail Khan have been badly damaged due to floods. “All of these highways have been partially restored. The flow of traffic is very slow, especially for cargo trucks. This has caused a shortage of goods and spurred inflation,” Ahmed said.
Against the backdrop, Federal Minister Khwaja Saad Rafique has ordered the national airlines to increase flights to Quetta. This decision has been hailed in Balochistan.
While the province is faced with a natural calamity, the political leadership is apparently focused on power games. The chief minister is trying to convince the JUI-F to join his cabinet to strengthen his government.
The writer is a journalist covering Balochistan, CPEC, politics and economy. He can be reached on twitter: @iAdnanAamir.