dear friends, you probably know that i am
currently in floods in pakistan. if you don't want to read my long narrative, you can skip the beginning and scroll down to the part in blue print. thanks. r. following is second report for tonya of my efforts trying to reach the people affected by
Remember I told you in my last report that travel to theinterior of Sindh could not be arranged. Well, miracles still happen and I amsitting in old Sukkur in the interior of Sindh. I was preparing myself to go tosouthernthat my brother’s boss had arranged and was waiting for myfinal ok.
My brother knowing my disappointment for not being able togo to Sindh kept asking around in his office and finally found some one, whooriginally came from- the interior Sindh. He talked to his sister whostill lives there with her family. I contacted Rabia, the man’s niece, she askedme to come next day – Saturday. I was ecstatic and next morning I was on myway. After 7 hr bus ride and another hr waiting and shuttle ride I got to AyubGate that is closer to old Sukkur. Rabia had told me she’d come there to pickme up. She and her mom, both clad in black burqas, came up to the shuttle as itpulled in. They had come in a rickshaw; I thought they had a car. I don’t knowhow the three of us, my bag with my stuff and the laptop and a big suitcasefull of clothes for the flood affectees, got in a tiny rickshaw to go to theirhome.
Right away Rabia started making phone calls to people aroundtown who’d know some one working with flood relief. One of her relatives workedfor an NGO and one of her brother’s friend spoke Sindhi and knew the area very well.The friend, Aslam, wanted to arrange a car for about 5000 rupees, to go theflood affected areas briefly talk to people and come back. 5000 rupees ($ 60)is lot of money to spend on one day transportation. I wanted to meet the peopleand live among them, if possible, listen to their stories and find out whatthey need. I had thought six months after the floods urgent needs of peoplemust have been met and people might have gone back to their villages. So, Isaid no to car and asked about public transportation. No one knew.
Next day, Sunday, the search continued, different optionswere discussed. I bonded with the family, the mother, father and Alia one ofthe two older sisters of Rabia. About noon Aslam comes, basically to meet meand judge the situation for himself. I might add here it was a new experiencefor all of them to have an individual wanting to help without the benefit of anorganization. I explain my reasons to want to meet people versus giving moneyto the relief agencies. Every one discouraged me from spending any time on myown with the flood-affected-people, FAP. They tell me how dangerous thosepeople are, they attack you, steal your things, etc. after talking to me Aslamclaimed to understand my reasons and promised to help.
In the afternoon I visit one of Rabia’s relatives family.Haseeb, one of the relatives, is an IT man works for an NGO: Sindh RuralSupport Organization. SRSO was established in 2003 for a reduction of povertyproject. Since the floods almost every one has been working for the floodrelief services.
In the evening Aslam calls to say: he’ll come on Mondaymorning and take me to a friend of his who works for flood relief services.Come Monday morning, rabia goes to her Saint Saviour- a Christian school toteach. I wait for aslam, and I wait, … .a little after 11 I text him to askwhen he’ll come. He calls me back the NGO is having a meeting, as soon as it’sover, he’ll bring his friend. I wait and wait,.. again. About 4 pm he comes tothe house alone and tells some stories about why he couldn’t come earlier andalso why his friend didn’t come. I am not happy and let him know. He promisesit won’t happen again and for sure he’ll come in the morning at 9:30.
Unbelievable turn of events: from utter despair to elation.When my contact that was going to take me to an NGO working with the floodvictims didn’t show up for the second day at 9:30 am as he had promised Idecided not to wait for him any longer. At 10:15 I took a rickshaw and came tothe SRSO office. I did not know what to expect but what options did I have? Ifit weren’t for Tonya’s donation I probably would have given up by now andinvested rest of my money in Farah Deeba’s Aalam Bibi Educational and Welfareorganization as well. I even considered returning Tonya’s money and be donewith helping the FAP.
The office the rickshaw droppedme at was the SRSO delivery warehouse. I was told to go to the head office, butI decided to go in any way and talk to two young women inside to help me get intouch with FAP. They made some calls and told me to go to the head office ashort distance away to meet Dr. Masood ul Hassan. Rabia’s relative, Haseeb, hadalso given his name. As soon as I was announced Dr. Hassan came out and took meto his office – desk, rather. He also made some phone calls to find out if anyone going for distribution could take me along. Luckily, Ali Bakhsh Mangi, aman from Shikarpur was in the building for a meeting with People.He came to Dr. Masood ul Hassan office and listened very carefully to my storyof wanting to meet the FAP. He promised to take me to them after the meeting.Shikarpur is about 40 km north west of Sukkur.
I arrived the SRSO at 11:00 am and by 1:00 pm I was on myway to Shikarpur. We stopped at Chak, north east about half way to Shikarpur.There I met Saima and Noor, two young women who work for SRSO. After lunch four of us and the driver were on ourway, via head office Shikarpur to meet with FAP. We dropped Sir Ali, as he isaffectionately called, at the head office and the rest of us went to the floodaffected areas.
I was shocked to seethe first village, Saddhu Lanapur inWazir Abad, still underwater and its inhabitants, about 250 families, have been living in tents onhigher ground, for six months. Even though many organizations Red Cross,UNICEF, WFP, have been providing ration on monthly basis still the villagerscomplained about not having enough food and the blankets provided by USAID werevery thin and not warm enough for cold nights in open spaces. The temperaturesin that area were barely above freezing – unusually cold winter for the area.
With the help of several donor agencies, the government ofis trying very hard to meet the immediate needs of people. I met somededicated people who are working day and night to help. Still some people atthis camp complained of not receiving food rations for three months. They canafford only one meal a day to stretch the last delivery until the next one. Theorganizers contest their assertion but could not prove if their claim werefalse.
Now the question was what is more urgent food or relief fromcold. The district manager promised to look into the food situation and deliverration himself if there was other way. Sir Ali is one of the few people whodelivered what he promised. So I made the decision to buy blankets and let thesir Ali and aid agencies take care of the food. Without his help and resourceshe put at my disposal. I could not have delivered 150 quilts that I did. Thedecision to buy quilts instead of blankets was made after seeing the choices ofblankets and quilts (razaiyan). The blanket made in china were more expensive,heavier and not as warm as the Pakistani made (i think) quilts. At 625 rupees each I couldbuy 150 quilts vs 100 blankets. But it's onlya drop in the bucket. In just this village alone I could not provide one quiltper family, much less for each individual.
If any of you, in the US or Pakistan would like to help,please contact Tonya or me (Pakistan) I promise your money will be spent thebest possible way.
you can see the village at the far end in the pictures here