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A young patient's visit to Dr. Shazia Shah

Dr. Shazia Shah, 30 years old, from Jamshoro, Sindh, is a humanitarian worker and a practising gynaecologist. She works for Community World Service Asia as the only lady doctor serving the community of Union Council Bijora, District Thatta, in the Sindh province. She tells us about the experiences, the challenges and what drives her in her work.

“My mother, Ghulam Zahra, is my biggest inspiration. She always encouraged me to do better. It was her dream to make me a doctor.”

While talking about her work in the humanitarian sector, she shares:

“My work is rewarding for me, I count myself very lucky to be able to make a living doing what is in alignment with my values and the things that I believe in. The contentment I draw from working in this field motivates me to make it my life’s mission to improve the lives of women and children.”

When asked to share an inspiring story which she will never forget, she took a pause and recalled a former patient with a beaming smile:

“I will never forget the smile on Noor Jehan’s face after she saw her new-born baby for the first time. When she came to me, her medical situation was complicated and she had no money or other means to get medical care. She was scared and in a lot of pain, I assured her that despite the complication, I would try my best and she wouldn’t have to sell her livestock to pay the medical bills. She gave birth to a healthy baby here in the Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health (MNCH) center.”

Dr. Shazia added that empathy and compassion are the keystones for humanitarian work; it is the ability to feel what the other person is feeling. This ability connects you with people you work for; it makes you realize that how similar we all are despite coming from different areas, background and cultures.

 “The people I have met in this line of work are among the most wonderful friends and colleagues I can imagine. The bonds that are formed working together in intense situations are very powerful, so they stay with you for life.”

As the only female doctor in Ranta village, Dr. Shazia provides access to health care for women and children in need. Her services touch and affect many lives; and a huge amount of energy goes into making sure the necessary support is delivered.

Working as a humanitarian aid worker exposes you to a side of human nature and reality that we are shielded from in our privileged modern day lives. While talking about the challenges and risks she faces during her work, Dr. Shazia is candid. It gets messy, chaotic, and difficult at times—but I am hooked.” She added that, on a personal level, this experience has transformed her from a naive newcomer to a hardened, hopeful but critical realist. She expressed, “We all know that humanitarian work, especially in crisis situations or in unprivileged areas, is not easy work, but we still go for it because we believe in the worth of the work.”

Dr. Shazia is a beacon of hope and a role model for many mothers and young girls in Ranta village. Not only does she provide them with medical support, but is constantly changing the traditionalist mindset of the villagers too. They are now more open to the idea of sending their daughters to study in schools.

She believes that the world needs more empowered women, and that we should motivate and mobilize women by enabling them to live their life and their dreams to the fullest potential.

“Humanitarian work can be conducted anywhere in the world. What you do today can change a person’s life, so always try to celebrate humanity in your own capacity.”

Temperature check by Dr. Shazia, her favorite doctor!
Temperature check by Dr. Shazia, her favorite doctor!

On the World Humanitarian Day, Shazia articulates, “I want to see women unified and empowered by sharing the belief that they hold the power to create and shape. They are a powerful agent of change so we all should do more to support women and promote their role in the humanitarian action”

Shaink Bund is the central bund (levee) that protects the Qadir pur union council from the threatening flood waters. Qadirpur Union council is a part of district Ghotki in the Sindh province. As the water levels rise, the water from the Shaink bund flows to the other two bunds, Loop bund and Qadirpur bund. There are around thirty five villages located in between Shaink bund and the two bunds. When water in the Shaink bund overflows to the other two bunds, the villages located in between are heavily flooded. The residents of these villages struggle to survive by seeking immediate refuge at the Loop and Qadirpur bunds.

Mae Husna is a 45 years old mother of six living with her ill husband in village Nihal Goth, situated in the middle of the bunds. Her family is among those who have been displaced to the Loop bund for safety.  Nihal Goth, situated at a 500 meters distance from Loop bund is only a kilometer away from the river bank which is why it is among the most affected villages as the bund overflows. Most of the houses in the village have sank to almost 90 percent under the flood water. These houses have become unfit to live in even after the water levels go down.

Remember the horrifying day of when the flood came, Mae Husna mournfully narrated the experience,

“The water levels had started increasing on the night before Eid. The water had started flowing into our house heavily so we had to leave our house soon after offering Eid prayers early morning. Our only aim was to save our lives and leave everything else and our home as it was. We were given no early warnings about the floods.”

Her husband being unable to work due to his illness, Mae Husna is the sole bread winner for the family. Of her five daughters, three have been married off so they live on their own with their husbands while the younger two daughters have been sent to a relative’s house to be in a safer environment. The mother could forsee the protection issues her teenage daughters would have had to face in such uncertain living conditions at the embankment.  Having no biological son of her own, Mae Husna adopted her only son from her relatives who is with her and her husband at the Loop bund these days.

The flood affected communities in Qadirpur UC are facing grave water, sanitation and health and hygiene issues. They have no food to cook for themselves or utensils to cook with. They are living without shelters. Drinking water is brought from a two kilometers distant village. Diseases such as   diarrhea among children, malaria, high fever and skin infections have been reported at a rise.

Community World Service Asia along with its local partner in Sindh, Transformation and Reflection for Rural Development (TRD) have identified and selected hundred most vulnerable flood affected families taking refuge at Loop bund in district Ghotki. These selected families have been distributed one month food rations. The food package has been designed for a household of six members, which is the average household size in the province. The items in the food package include 65Kgs of wheat flour, 15kgs of rice, 8 kgs of pulses, 4 kgs of sugar, 6 liters of oil, 800 grams of iodized salt, 400 grams of black tea leaves and a match box.

Based on the selection criteria of the most vulnerable families, Mai Husna and her family has been selected for the emergency food assistance. After receiving the food ration she expressed,

“Life cannot be the same all the time, but it is good that an organization such as Community World Service Asia is here to help troubled people like us in such difficult times.”

To build an understanding of the brand new Quality and Accountability (Q & A) initiative, the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS), the Q&A team of Community World Service Asia organized a two day in-house “Write-shop” for its relevant staff members from July 31st to Aug 1st at the O’Spring Estate in Murree, Pakistan. The write-shop was the first of its kind to be conducted in-house. It promoted the importance and explained the structure of CHS and its implementation internally as well as externally. Participants were asked to prepare some of the session plans on the assigned topics for the training which they each presented through various methodologies. At the end of the write-shop, participants developed a concrete action plan that aimed to help them in implementing CHS internally and as well as providing technical services to external stakeholders.

CHEF staff engaged in a role playing learning exercise

Community World Service Asia organized and conducted a four day training on Sphere Minimum Standards focusing primarily on the theme of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) for the staff of Comprehensive Health & Education Forum (CHEF) International. The training was held from July 6th to 9th in Muzaffargarh, which is among the more disaster prone cities of Pakistan. Attended by 23 participants, 17 men & 6 women, the main objective of the training was to develop a thorough understanding on the use of Sphere Minimum Standards in Health related projects.  To meet the learning needs of the participants, new and contextualized Sphere training materials were used through interactive learning exercises which helped in achieving the goal of the training. At the end of the training activities, the participants were asked to prepare a three months action plan on incorporating the standards learnt through the training. To support the participants in the implementation of the Sphere Standards, Community World Service Asia will be providing follow-up technical support to all the training participants at CHEF.

Photo credits: Saleem Dominic

Floods 2015 (Joint Update)

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The ongoing flood emergency is continuing to adversely affect the lives and livelihoods of thousands of communities all across Pakistan and its AJK state. The rains that started in the mid of July have continued for weeks disrupting the lives of many communities. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) have reported 917,791 people as affected; 173 deaths and 127 injuries owing to the devastating floods. In Sindh, the rainfall leading to floods has affected the Katcha area of the six districts however it is anticipated that the floods will drift down to the low lying districts of the province as well.

Damage statistics caused by the floods in the country are indicated in the table below:

Province Deaths Injured Houses Damaged Villages Affected Population Affected
AJ&K 22 5 237 17
Baluchistan 13 33 798
Gilgit Baltistan 7 6 812 286 136,000
KPK 83 70 3,320
Punjab 48 13 2,025 496 362,863
Sindh 2,097 418,928
Total 173 127 7,192 2,896 917,791

Government authorities have predicted an increase in flooding particularly in Sindh in the upcoming days as heavy monsoon rains are continuing, thus increasing flood water levels in Kabul, Indus, Jhelum and Chenab rivers. The persistent melting of glaciers in Diamer district are further adding to the rise in river waters. The authorities have warned of massive destructions in interior Sindh in the coming weeks when flood water from all of over the country is expected to pass through catchment districts of Indus River in the Sindh province.

Following is a brief overview of the impact the recent flash floods have had on the different provinces of Pakistan so far:

Sindh:  Six districts have been severely affected by the floods in Sindh so far and the number of the affected villages is expected to increase rapidly in the following days. The affected districts in Sindh include Kashmore, Gothki, Shikarpur, Khairpur, Sukur and Qambar Shahdadkot.  The displaced communities have no choice but to live in tents under open skies on embankments and elevated areas in the affected districts. Anticipating displacement from these districts the government has established relief camps at various embankments.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: Eleven districts of the KPK province have been affected by the floods and a lot  more damage is expected in the near future due to the unending monsoon rains, land sliding, melting of glaciers and increase in flood level in Kabul and Indus rivers. The affected districts in KPK include Bannu, Batagram, Charsadda, Chitral, DI Khan, Karak, Kohat, Lakki Marwat, Peshawar, Swat and Shangla. However Nowshera and Charsadda are at a higher risk because of the mounting pressure being caused in Kabul River due to the continuing rains.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Diamer, Gilgit, Ghizar, Ghanche, Skardu and Hunza districts have been reported to be severely damaged. A number of roads and connecting bridges have been washed away leaving many villages disconnected from the main towns.

AJK: District Sudhnoti, Neelam, Havaili and Bhimber have been reported to have been affected by the rains and flash floods in 17 villages in the region.

Punjab: Almost 500 villages in Mianwali, Layyah, DG Khan, Rajanpur, Rahimyarkhan and Muzaffargarh districts are left inundated by the floods. Agricultural land spread across 378,172 acres of land have also been destroyed.

Baluchistan: Heavy rainfall, windstorms and the inevitable floods have left districts Zhob, Musakhel, Killa Saifullah, Kohlu and Dera Bugti severely damaged; flood protection bunds, electricity poles, roads, plantations have been impaired. The floods have caused breaches at various locations in the protection bunds claiming four lives so far.

FATA: A number of villages and houses have been reported as damaged in the Khyber and Mohmand agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. However, exact figures are yet to be reported by the authorities and the national media.

Response by Act Alliance: Community World Service Asia’s project teams are present in KPK, Sindh and Punjab provinces as well as in Azad Jamu & Kashmir. Sindh, positioned on the tail-end of Indus River, is one of the most flood-prone provinces. A number of districts in Sindh are already affected and the thousands of people displaced are in need of food, non-food items (NFIs) and health assistance. Community World Service Asia’s team in Sindh has carried out assessments and has also completed the distribution of monthly food packages to 100 flood affected families. The assistance is to be continued as 2,221 additional families will receive monthly food packages in the coming weeks. Community World Service Asia will also establish a water treatment plant in district Ghotki which will provide treated, clean drinking water to approximately 5,000 flood affected people on a daily basis for a month. Provision of Emergency Health Services has also been proposed in district Ghotki.

Our partner, NCA’s WASH team have also completed an assessment in Punjab and Sindh. In Sindh province, NCA has jointly assessed the situation in district Ghotki together with Community World Service Asia focusing on WASH, health and livelihoods. NCA’s assessment covers Layyah, Muzaffargarh and Rajanpur districts in Punjab province and Ghotki, and Kashmore districts in Sindh province.  The assessment team has conducted a rapid survey using semi-structured questionnaires, key informant interviews, FGDs and interviews with government stakeholders to gather important information on access, vulnerability, coping capacity, available resources and existing key risks. The assessment has been compiled.

As part of NCA’s emergency preparedness plan, the organization is mobilizing its pre-positioned mobile Water Treatment Units (WTUs) for immediate use. Each unit can purify and provide clean drinking water to 5,000 individuals based on SPHERE standards. Keeping in view the urgent needs and NCA’s life saving response capacity, it is utilizing its internal funds (through their head office) to provide emergency funds to immediately mobilize the WTUs. As planned for this response, six WTUs will provide water to alteast 30,000 individuals at this crucial stage. The budgeted amount is calculated for a three months response.

Contacts:
Allan A. Calma
Deputy Director
Disaster Management Program
Email: allan.calma@communityworldservice.asia
Cell: +92 301 5801621

Muhammad Fazal
Associate Director
Emergencies/DRR/Climate Change
Email: fazil.sardar@communitryworldservice.asia
Cell: +92 332 5586134

Palwashay Arbab
Head of Communications
Email: palwashay.arbab@communityworldservice.asia
Ph: +92 42 3586 5338

Sources:
www.ndma.gov.pk
www.pmd.gov.pk

Communities seek safety on higher ground of river embankments as their homes are flooded
Village organization planning emergency evacuation as part of a DRR training in Thatta.
Village organization planning emergency evacuation as part of a DRR training in Thatta.

Heavy rains have been severely affecting communities in Union Council Bijora, District Thatta, in the Sindh province of Pakistan.  Community World Service Asia has been present in the area since the devastating flooding in 2010, and continues to run health and livelihoods projects.  As part of an initiative funded by Christian Aid, Community World Service Asia is supporting the livelihoods of community members through vocational training and literacy classes for women, and community mobilization for disaster preparedness.

Thatta is an extremely flood-prone area, and flooding presents a serious hazard to the wellbeing and livelihoods of the local population. The destruction of crops, livestock and property results in significant losses and lead to the accumulation of debt and continuing poverty for already vulnerable households.  The recent monsoon rains have left 25 to 35 families homeless, rendered pathways between villages inaccessible and heavily impacted the earnings of people who rely on agricultural labor for their wages.  A lack of safe drinking water has also caused illnesses such as vomiting and diarrhea, which are particularly dangerous for young children, and especially so in a situation of food insecurity when many children are already malnourished.

Since 2013, Community World Service Asia has been conducting disaster risk reduction (DRR) trainings for community members and establishing village organizations to mobilize the community and facilitate them in disaster preparedness.  These organizations have undertaken a variety of key DRR initiatives, including the establishment of a community-based early warning system, based on regular and close monitoring of radio reports, hazard assessments and regular coordination and communication throughout the community.  They have conducted evacuation drills and have formed Emergency Rescue Teams to be ready for, and activated in, an emergency situation.

This value of this preparation became clear when the heavy rainfall began to affect the area, as the village organizations and community members promptly began coordination and activated the rescue teams to evacuate villagers to safety on the high ground of the embankment.

The village organizations are also coordinating with local authorities, utilizing the contacts that were provided during Community World Service Asia’s trainings. This had resulted in the district coordinator coming to inspect the situation of the village, and the Provincial Disaster Management Authority providing tents to shelter the displaced families.

The pro-active response of the community has demonstrated the effectiveness of the training methodologies. More importantly it has shown the importance of empowering the community to take ownership of its preparedness, and engaging the local population in efforts to reduce the risks posed by flooding.

Written by Neill Garvie

Photo credit: Saleem Dominic- Community World Service Asia staff

Yesterday, with my Pakistani colleagues, I visited the river banks/bunds of the Indus River in Ghotki, Qadirpur, Upper Sindh, where more than 5,000 families are stranded. The day was hot, maybe 40 degrees or more, with harsh sun and wind.

The stranded people are small-scale farmers reliant on their landlords and mostly indebted to money lenders. Their lives are hard, now made impossible. They had left their homes in the middle of the night as flood waters consumed their homes, taking their livestock, buffaloes and cattle.

Some men had stayed behind to protect what was left: submerged houses surrounded by stinking rank water, black and green, with all sorts of debris around. They burned tree stems cut for firewood to enable them to boil the water from the flood to drink.

The women had moved further along the bund (embankment or levee) with their children and what household items they had, their simple cooking utensils laid out on the riverbank. They had no privacy, no toilets, nothing. Many have no shelter except for their clothes and some sheets for protection from the baking heat.

Men sat looking helpless and in their eyes I saw bewilderment and sadness; what could be their next move but to wait? I sat with a group of men my own age, looking tired and haggard. They told me that they had been reduced to drinking the flood water.

We looked out at the sea of flood which stretched as far as I could see; it could be weeks before the water subsides as the ground is saturated.

I listened to the people on the bund and put myself in their shoes. I held back my tears and said that I was so very sorry that this had happened to them again. They are very poor people without hope, fearing what lies ahead.

They are the same people who suffered in the 2010 floods. The water level here is just one foot lower than it was at the height of the 2010 floods and more flood water is expected in the next two or three days.

Children however played in the flood water, sharing it with the buffalo that are defecating in it. Sugar cane and all other crops have been wiped out and standpipes and water pumps are now submerged by over nine feet of flood water.

People have no option but to drink the flood water option unless they can find water or someone can provide it. Disease, diarrhoea or cholera threatens. Cattle do not have fodder. It’s desperate and chilling.

The Pakistan army has been protecting and fortifying the bund where people were stranded with huge rocks, many transported in tractors and overladen trailers. One tractor and trailer was so heavy that it destroyed a bridge designed for donkey carts.

But the flood water is seeping through the bund and the added rocks may not do much to stop more flood water. It will come, because up country the heavy rain continues and it will all enter the Indus and be deposited in Sindh. If the Sukkur barrage (or dam) gives way, then millions of people will be affected by the flood as they were in 2010.

In Ghotki, some people had received tents from the Pakistani government’s Provincial Disaster Management Authority. Others have started to help with food and drinking water.

But the stranded people will have many more needs and face another uphill struggle to piece their lives back together. They are resilient and have faith, yet they also live beside a huge river which is mostly dormant but which wakes to become an ocean when the monsoon is cruel.

Our Pakistani brothers and sisters will survive but they now face a struggle that few of us can imagine.

Neill Garvie is Christian Aid’s Emergency Programme Manager for Pakistan and wrote this piece as he was visiting Sindh this week.

The monsoon rains that struck Pakistan in the third week of July are still continuing across the country. As a result of the heavy monsoon rains and melting of glaciers in the north of country, there has been widespread flooding in different regions of the country. The table below shows the level of damages reported till today:

No. of Casualties People injured Houses damaged Villages affected Total affected population
146 66 3,133 2,073 752,274

The floods have also severely damaged the infrastructure and local livelihoods of many parts of rural and semi-urban Pakistan; agricultural fields and crops have been damaged. A number of local markets, link roads, connecting bridges and micro-hydro power stations have been reported damaged as well.

As per the latest reports of the Pakistan Meteorological & Hydrological Department, the River Indus at Guddu Barrage is likely to attain a High to very High flood level ranging between 650,000 cusecs to 750,000 cusecs during 1400 PST of August 1st to 2400 PST of August 3rd 2015. It was further added that the flood levels will continue to remain high for the following seven days.

River Indus at Sukkur is also reported to maintain a High to very High flood level ranging between 650,000 cusecs to 750,000 cusecs during 1200 PST of August 2nd to 2400PST of August 4th2015. Flood levels will remain high for the next seven days in this region as well.

Unceasing heavy monsoon showers are expected in the coming days across Pakistan and a further increase in the water levels in Kabul, Indus, Jhelum and Chenab Rivers may intensify the flooding in Sindh. The Director General of the Meteorological Department still maintains as per his earlier message that India is also likely to release excess water from its dams in the following days which can upsurge flooding in the low-lying areas of Pakistan also. The authorities have warned of massive destruction in interior Sindh in the subsequent weeks as flood water from all of over the country will pass through catchment districts of Indus River in the Southern province.

The impact of the latest flash floods on different provinces of Pakistan are indicated briefly below:

SINDH
No. of Casualties People injured Houses Damaged Villages Affected Total affected population
16 -* -* 1,423 281, 921
* No definite number available yetThe affected communities displaced are forced to live in tents and under the open sky or on embankments and elevated places in the affected districts. The government has established relief camps at various embankments for the affected people however people have been reported to prefer to live in open spaces instead. The provincial government together with the Pakistan Army is providing rescue and evacuation services to the flood affected communities and villages.
KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA (KPK)
No. of Casualties People injured Houses Damaged Villages Affected Total affected population
73 31 348 292 -*
* No definite number available yetChitral is the worst affected district in KPK province. Majority of the villages have lost land-connections that they had between major cities as link roads and connecting bridges, micro-hydro power stations have been severely damaged. The Government has distributed relief items including tents among the displaced families and has also announced a cash compensation of PKR. 0.5 Million for each affected family that has lost their house in the floods in Chitral.
GILGIT BALTISTAN
No. of Casualties People injured Houses Damaged Villages Affected Total affected population
5 2 653 175 136,000
* No definite number available yetGhizar, Astor, Skardu and Hunza districts have been reported to be severely damaged. A number of roads and connecting bridges have been washed away that has left many villages disconnected from the main towns. 
Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK)
No. of Casualties People injured Houses Damaged Villages Affected Total affected population
20 8 189 -* -*
* No definite number available yetDistrict Sudhnoti, Neelam, Havaili and Bhimber have been reported to affect by the rains and flash floods.
Punjab
No. of Casualties People injured Houses Damaged Villages Affected Total affected population
22 4 553 466 334, 353
Villages in Mianwali, Layyah, DG Khan, Rajanpur, Rahimyarkhan and Muzaffargarh districts are most severely swamped by the flood water of River Sindh.  Out of the total affected population in Punjab, 59250 are reported to be living in 27 relief camps established by the Government.  Crop fields spread across 233,688 acres of land have been totally destroyed.
Baluchistan
No. of Casualties People injured Houses Damaged Villages Affected Total affected population
10 24 620 -* -*
* No definite number available yetHeavy rainfall, windstorms has affected Districts Zhob, Kohlu and Dera Bugti with flooding. Flood protection walls, electricity poles and links roads have been damaged while trees and plants have been uprooted as well. High flood levels in Guddu and Taunsa barrages are posing a probable threat to more districts of Baluchistan.
Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)
A number of villages and houses have been reported to be damaged in Khyber and Mohamand agencies of Federally Administered Tribal Areas. However, exact figures have yet to be reported by the authorities and national media.

Response by Community World Service Asia: Community World Service Asia’s Disaster Response Team are present in KPK, Sindh and Punjab provinces as well as in Azad Jammu & Kashmir. Sindh, positioned on the tail-end of Indus River, is one of the most flood-prone provinces. A number of districts in Sindh are already severely affected and thousands of people are in dire need of immediate food, NFI and health assistance. Community World Service Asia has been able to assist 100 most vulnerable flood affected families in district Ghotki with provision of one month food rations.  One month food ration among another 827 families will be distributed in the coming weeks.

Contacts:
Allan A. Calma
Deputy Director
Disaster Management Program
Email: allan.calma@communityworldservice.asia
Cell: +92 301 5801621

Muhammad Fazal
Associate Director
Emergencies/DRR/Climate Change
Email: fazil.sardar@communitryworldservice.asia
Cell: +92 332 5586134

Palwashay Arbab
Head of Communications
Email: palwashay.arbab@communityworldservice.asia
Cell: +92 42 3586 5338

Sources:
www.ndma.gov.pk
www.pdma.gov.pk
www.tribune.com.pk
www.dailytimes.com.pk
www.express.com.pk