dear friends, you probably know that i am currently in pakistan. following is second report for tonya of my efforts trying to reach the people affected by floods in pakistan. if you don't want to read my long narrative, you can skip the beginning and scroll down to the last 2 - 3 paragraphs. thanks. r
Remember I told you in my last report that travel to the interior of Sindh could not be arranged. Well, miracles still happen and I am sitting in old Sukkur in the interior of Sindh. I was preparing myself to go to southern Punjab that my brother’s boss had arranged and was waiting for my final ok.
My brother knowing my disappointment for not being able to go to Sindh kept asking around in his office and finally found some one, who originally came from Sukkur - the interior Sindh. He talked to his sister who still lives there with her family. I contacted Rabia, the man’s niece, she asked me to come next day – Saturday. I was ecstatic and next morning I was on my way. After 7 hr bus ride and another hr waiting and shuttle ride I got to Ayub Gate that is closer to old Sukkur. Rabia had told me she’d come there to pick me up. She and her mom, both clad in black burqas, came up to the shuttle as it pulled in. They had come in a rickshaw; I thought they had a car. I don’t know how the three of us, my bag with my stuff and the laptop and a big suitcase full of clothes for the flood affectees, got in a tiny rickshaw to go to their home.
Right away Rabia started making phone calls to people around town who’d know some one working with flood relief. One of her relatives worked for 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 the flood 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 people and live among them, if possible, listen to their stories and find out what they need. I had thought six months after the floods urgent needs of people must have been met and people might have gone back to their villages. So, I said no to car and asked about public transportation. No one knew.
Next day, Sunday, the search continued, different options were discussed. I bonded with the family, the mother, father and Alia one of the two older sisters of Rabia. About noon Aslam comes, basically to meet me and judge the situation for himself. I might add here it was a new experience for all of them to have an individual wanting to help without the benefit of an organization. I explain my reasons to want to meet people versus giving money to the relief agencies. Every one discouraged me from spending any time on my own with the flood-affected-people, FAP. They tell me how dangerous those people are, they attack you, steal your things, etc. after talking to me Aslam claimed 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 Rural Support Organization. SRSO was established in 2003 for a reduction of poverty project. Since the floods almost every one has been working for the flood relief services.
In the evening Aslam calls to say: he’ll come on Monday morning 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 to teach. I wait for aslam, and I wait, … .a little after 11 I text him to ask when he’ll come. He calls me back the NGO is having a meeting, as soon as it’s over, he’ll bring his friend. I wait and wait,.. again. About 4 pm he comes to the house alone and tells some stories about why he couldn’t come earlier and also why his friend didn’t come. I am not happy and let him know. He promises it 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 flood victims didn’t show up for the second day at 9:30 am as he had promised I decided not to wait for him any longer. At 10:15 I took a rickshaw and came to the SRSO office. I did not know what to expect but what options did I have? If it weren’t for Tonya’s donation I probably would have given up by now and invested rest of my money in Farah Deeba’s Aalam Bibi Educational and Welfare organization as well. I even considered returning Tonya’s money and be done with helping the FAP.
The office the rickshaw dropped me at was the SRSO delivery warehouse. I was told to go to the head office, but I decided to go in any way and talk to two young women inside to help me get in touch with FAP. They made some calls and told me to go to the head office a short distance away to meet Dr. Masood ul Hassan. Rabia’s relative, Haseeb, had also given his name. As soon as I was announced Dr. Hassan came out and took me to his office – desk, rather. He also made some phone calls to find out if any one going for distribution could take me along. Luckily, Ali Bakhsh Mangi, a man from Shikarpur was in the building for a meeting with World Vision People. He came to Dr. Masood ul Hassan office and listened very carefully to my story of 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 my way 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 our way, via head office Shikarpur to meet with FAP. We dropped Sir Ali, as he is affectionately called, at the head office and the rest of us went to the flood affected areas.
I was shocked to see the first village, Saddhu Lanapur in Union Council Wazir Abad, still under water and its inhabitants, about 250 families, have been living in tents on higher ground, for six months. Even though many organizations Red Cross, UNICEF, WFP, have been providing ration on monthly basis still the villagers complained about not having enough food and the blankets provided by USAID were very thin and not warm enough for cold nights in open spaces. The temperatures in that area were barely above freezing – unusually cold winter for the area.
With the help of several donor agencies, the government of Sindh is trying very hard to meet the immediate needs of people. I met some dedicated people who are working day and night to help. Still some people at this camp complained of not receiving food rations for three months. They can afford only one meal a day to stretch the last delivery until the next one. The organizers contest their assertion but could not prove if their claim were false.
Now the question was what is more urgent food or relief from cold. The district manager promised to look into the food situation and deliver ration himself if there was other way. Sir Ali is one of the few people who delivered what he promised. So I made the decision to buy blankets and let the sir Ali and aid agencies take care of the food. Without his help and resources he put at my disposal. I could not have delivered 150 quilts that I did. The decision to buy quilts instead of blankets was made after seeing the choices of blankets 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 could buy 150 quilts vs 100 blankets. But it's only a drop in the bucket. In just this village alone I could not provide one quilt per 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 the best possible way.
you can see the village still under water and more pictures here
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