Stories

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.”

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 World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) is an initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to bring the global community together to commit to new ways of working together to save lives and reduce hardship around the globe. It will be the first global summit on humanitarian action of this size and scope and it will be held in Istanbul at the end of May 2016.

Community World Service Asia held community level consultations in Pakistan and Afghanistan that aimed to gather perspectives on how to take steps towards disaster mitigation in the future, emergency response and recovery, and to share the collected viewpoints ahead as recommendations to the global actors participating at the Summit. The consultations were also directed towards measuring the level of humanitarian assistance offered by the aid groups as well as any indicators of employment opportunities created for the affected communities.  Conducted by Community World Service Asia, these sessions were divided into two categories, one for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the other for community representatives in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Attempting to amplify the voices of communities in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, Community World Service Asia reached people from a varied demographics for these consultations. These consultations helped in identifying individual and community needs at the time of emergency and the groups that are most effective in meeting the needs of a community during the crisis. Three focus group discussions (FGDs) and fifteen consultations were successfully completed in the month of May in KPK and Sindh provinces of Pakistan. While in June, two FGDs and six Individual consultations were conducted in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

These consultations are helping to prepare for and prevent future emergencies, and are planned in close coordination with UNOCHA and the National Humanitarian Network (NHN). The recommendations collected from these consultations are submitted to be included in the final report of the Secretary-General and will set the agenda for the summit. Community World Service Asia will also be contributing messages from the community to the ACT Alliance WHS film which is to be aired at the WHS Global consultation in Geneva in October, and will actively be participating in the Summit in Istanbul in May 2016 as well.

Community World Service Asia’s Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health (MNCH) center, funded by Church World Service Global and the Church of Scotland, serves a local population of approximately 20,500 in Union Council Bijora, Thatta, in the Sindh province. The remote, rural area is affected by a lack of health infrastructure and services. A lack of female doctors and health practitioners, as well as cultural norms which pose barriers to women travelling, mean that women are particularly under-served and that their health issues remain a serious problem.

The MNCH center provides easily accessible and affordable health care to the local community, which not only enables women to avail vital services, but alleviates the financial burden of expensive travel to the nearest hospital, which can cost families around Rs. 1,000 (USD 10). A key component of the project is community mobilization, which promotes the engagement and ownership of community members. Through the formation of male and female Health Management Committees (HMCs), we are able to build trusting relationships with communities, which are essential to effectively address key health issues. The HMC members conduct basic level awareness raising sessions on hygiene practices, common and seasonal diseases such as malaria, and family planning.

The HMCs also play a vital role in sharing information among men and women in the community regarding the health services available at the MNCH, including more in-depth awareness-raising sessions. In addition, HMCs provide transport to patients in emergency situations, identify current health issues and report them to the project team, as well as supporting the team with the management of medicine stocks. This participation is essential to Community World Service Asia’s vision of empowered communities. HMC members demonstrated their strong sense of local ownership by sharing their hopes for the MNCH center in ten years’ time: a “first class” facility for the community.

Across Afghanistan, communities continue to recover from three decades of conflict. Education, particularly for girls, has been severely damaged and disrupted, with a lack of safe schools, difficulty in travelling and a shortage of qualified teachers. Poverty and cultural norms further contribute to the serious obstacles to education for both girls and boys, and the reconstruction of the country.

Community World Service Asia is committed to working with local authorities in Afghanistan and enabling them to provide quality education for students. We promote awareness and understanding among communities about the importance of education, especially for girls, with an emphasis on a culturally sensitive approach. We provide extra-curricular educational activities for girls, such as civic education camps, in order to address the gaps in their education system and empower them to play an active role in their communities. The construction of safe play areas and the provision of sports equipment uphold the right of children to play, and are a vital part of our efforts to build the confidence of children.

In addition, we provide extensive and in-depth training to teachers, supporting them to create engaging, child-centered classrooms and conduct meaningful lessons which will equip their students to learn effectively. As part of this initiative, we have been holding subject-specific trainings for teachers from eight schools in Laghman and Nangarhar provinces on a variety of courses identified as priorities by the vast majority of surveyed teachers, including Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and General Sciences. The workshops develop the knowledge of participants on these subjects as well as exploring learning strategies and teaching techniques.

A five-day training was held in June for twenty five teachers in the Behsood district of Nangarhar, on the subject of Chemistry. The workshop resulted in a 446% increase in the technical knowledge of teachers, as measured by pre- and post- test scores on the subject matter.

Ab. Malik, a teacher at Malika Suraya Girls High School, shared the impact that the training had on her abilities and confidence to teach Chemistry, “Most of these things were really new to me and had no idea how to do experiments. But after attending this training, I feel that I have become an expert and trained teacher who can provide the students with effective chemistry classes.”

Zalmay Halimi Hazrat, the District Education Director for the Behsood District, visited the workshop, and was extremely positive about its value and relevance for teachers in his area. He expressed his views saying, “If other organizations conduct similar trainings for our teachers that are just as effective, we would very soon be able to observe the positive change and improved quality of education within our school that we hope to see. This is the first time I am seeing the entire wall of our training hall completely full of charts. This indicates that throughout the training days you all have worked hard and have had lots of practical activities.”

A wide gender gap exists across Pakistan, with women able to access fewer opportunities for participation in education, employment and social and political life. Nationally, only 45% of women are literate, compared to 69% of men[1]. There is also a strong disparity between urban and rural areas, 71.1% of those who live in cities or towns able to read and write, and only 46.3% of those who live in more remote settings[2].

Women in rural areas are therefore particularly marginalized, and are affected by a variety of factors which limit their access to education. There are few schools, a lack of female teachers, insufficient sanitation facilities at schools, and often long and unsecure journeys between home and the classroom. This further compounds the general issues of insufficient resources, untrained and unqualified teachers, out-of-date textbooks and poverty, which present obstacles to girls and boys alike.

Community World Service Asia is committed to empowering rural women through education and income generation. Through our women’s empowerment project in Thatta, Sindh, funded by Christian Aid, women receive training to develop their skills in traditional embroidery, appliqué and other crafts. The project also supports these women to develop sustainable linkages to local and high-end markets, and education on sexual and reproductive health. A key component of the intervention is the introduction of adult literacy classes, through which participating women receive education in basic reading, writing and mathematical skills.

The second adult literacy center was opened in Ghulam Muhammad Soorjo village, Thatta, on 1st July, with fifty women enrolled. The new students eagerly shared their motivation for undertaking the classes, with reasons including being able to read the expiration dates on medicines, verifying their national identity cards, and registering to vote.

[1] Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement survey (PSLM) 2008-09-Most recent government figures available.

[2] UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011

 

Community World Service Asia, with the financial support of Christian Aid, has been working with flood-prone and affected communities in Thatta, Sindh since 2010. Along with utilizing our innovative Mobile Knowledge Resource Center to conduct interactive training workshops to support community members, teachers and students to become disaster resilient, we promote community ownership of disaster risk reduction initiatives through the formation of local level disaster management committees. These committees are essential to the active participation of communities in preparedness and mobilization in the event of a disaster, as well as building sustainability of the intervention. The committees carry out assessments of local risks and capacity to respond, as well as producing hazard maps and conducting evacuation drills.

On June 15th, members of the disaster management committee in Union Council Bijora, Thatta participated in an exposure visit to a neighboring village, Ali Muhammat Jat, to share their experiences of working to build community resilience to natural disasters.   The visit was an opportunity for both communities to identify good practices and areas in which they can learn from one another. The participants shared the importance of engaging and coordinating with community members in order to successfully identify needs and priorities, and effectively sensitize communities to important practices such as education and disaster preparedness. The committee in Ali Muhammad Jat, supported by Islamic Relief Pakistan, also shared their initiative of monitoring local news alerts to develop their own early warning system, which the committee members from UC Bijora found particularly interesting and useful.

Exposure visits like these enable the communities with whom we work to develop links with other groups, learn from them, and adapt relevant initiatives to strengthen their own practices. This also helps the committees which we establish in becoming self-sustaining and durable in the long-term.

Farhad working on a solar panel to make an efficient and economical solar energy system to generate electricity
Farhad working on a home built solar power system
Farhad working on a home built solar power system

Twenty-nine-year old Farhad lived in the Afghan refugee village Barari in Mansera with his parents, his wife, and six siblings. His brothers were young and school going, while his father’s ailing health didn’t allow him to work, which left Farhad as the sole income bearer in the family.  Being the eldest among the siblings, Farhad started supporting the entire family financially since a young age through working at the local vegetable market on daily wages.

Providing for a large family of ten members with meagre financial resources meant that their living standards had greatly deteriorated since their arrival in Mansehra. The family’s day to day needs were increasing but most were unmet due to scarcity of funds. Even though Farhad worked for many hours and did all he could to provide for the family, his efforts were not paying him much monetarily.

Recognizing Farhad’s difficulties, his family’s need and his commitment to support them relentlessly, the Community World Service Asia team selected him as a participant of the electrical trade training for the Vocational Training and Market Development project. Farhad invested four long months of hard work and energy into this training. Upon successful completion, he was given the opportunity to work as a local electrician at the Barari camp. He took up many assignments at the camp, which along with earning him a better income, also helped in polishing his newly acquired skills.

Soon after, with the repatriation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan announced, Farhad and his family, among thousands of other refugee families, had to return to their motherland.  The return journey to their home in Jalalabad, Afghanistan went smoothly until they reached there.

“When I arrived in my hometown, there was no electricity in the entire area. The residents of my village were only using lanterns for light as no other source of electricity was available. Soon as summer came, the people were only equipped with hand fans to cool themselves with. Immediately, I planned to use the knowledge I had learnt about solar energy during my training in Pakistan and so I began experimenting with putting up a solar energy system in my house. The people around me were very impressed with my work and the expertise I displayed. Soon, many of them started requesting me to install it in their homes as well for which they would pay me. Today, I earn around AFN 25,000 per month in my hometown”, says Farhad proudly.

“My younger brother is now studying matriculation at school and every day on his return he helps me with my electrical work. He is also learning the profession from me as he assists. Just through receiving this training, I have accomplished a lot.  I am very thankful to Community World Service Asia and all other organizations involved in this project for selecting and supporting me.”

Since 2009, the ongoing conflict in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and its adjoining regions has resulted in a mass displacement of its population to different districts of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KPK). More than thirty thousand families from these displaced communities have migrated to Kohat, a city located at around 70km from Peshawar. To support the displaced community in Kohat, Community World Service Asia (formerly CWS-P/A) in partnership with Dan Church Aid (DCA), is providing livelihood interventions to improve food security among selected migrants and host communities.

During consultative meetings with the affected population, lack of skills for income-generation and food production opportunities were identified as a prime concern among the conflict affected populace in Kohat. To reduce these vulnerabilities, Community World Service Asia provided skills training fifty men and fifty women from the target communities on tailoring, embroidery, welding and plumbing. Selection of training was made depending on each trainee’s requirement and choice. Supporting toolkits to continue practice of the learnt skills were also provided to the training participants.

Trainings to the fifty men were provided by implementing partners Sarhad Rural Support Program (SRSP) in Kohat. Dilawar Khan, Samiullah Khan and Shah Jee Khan are three of the selected participants of the trainings provided. The three of them shared how this intervention by Community World Service Asia has made an impact on their lives since their displacement.

At the time of selection, I thought that this training would be a waste of time but the trainer worked very hard with me and made me realize how helpful it was. I am very much thankful to Community World Service Asia and SRSP for conducting this training. Now I have a skill and can earn better for my family. Before I took this training I barely earned four to five thousand a month, in which it was very difficult to manage my household expenses. I am hopeful that I will get more work opportunities in my own village now and will be able to send my children to school and provide them with better education.”

Dilawar, 26 years old, is married has three children. He lives in a joint family with the total of 22 household members. Before displacement his family’s main livelihood was farming on their own native land. In Kohat, they have no source of income and live in a rented house.

Samiullah 1

I am very happy for being nominated for the plumbing skills training. I practically learnt how to use all the plumbing tools and completed the training in a good environment. Before participating in this training I had no skills to earn an income for my family and myself. Today I have a skill and it empowers me to earn a better livelihood and lead a comfortable life. When I went back home upon successful completion of the training course, I started practicing the skills learnt and started doing some repair work for my neighbors and relatives in the village which enabled me to earn sufficient money. I was also trying to get work outside the village and finally one of my relatives who is engaged with sanitary tools business in Peshawar called me and employed me at his shop. After a week, myself and three other training graduates secured a contract for completing the sanitary construction work at a newly constructed building in Peshawar at forty thousand rupees per month”.

Shah Jee Khan belong to the Bakezai Banda village in Kohat. He is 29 years of age, is married and has two children. He had no source of income when he migrated to Kohat.

Shah G 2

“Vocational trainings conducted by SRSP and Community World Service Asia equipped me with the skills I needed and paved the way to earn a respectable livelihood for me and my family. When I came after completing the training course, I was contacted by my trainer who informed me about scheduled test interviews of UAE based MBC company in Chota Lahore District Swabi for hiring. I appeared for test/interviews on the mention date and time and passed it with good marks. The company selected me for the post of a plumber. I was offered a two year valid visa with a monthly salary of AED.1000, excluding allowances for overtime, food and accommodation. I was told that I shall get visa confirmation within 20 days. Before taking this training I was unemployed and was very worried about my future as I had no professional skill and work experience. I am very much grateful to Community World Service Asia for providing me with a hope for a bright future”.

Samiullah Khan belongs to the Afridi Banda village in Kohat. He is 21 years of age, is unmarried and lives with his parents. His father is disabled which is why Samiullah is the sole income bearer of the family.

Ama Sumani is a leading figure in her community. As president of her Village and Community Organizations, she plays an integral role in building the resilience of her community to natural disasters. Community World Service Asia established these organizations in order to mobilize communities to take action and protect themselves from the flooding and fires to which they are especially vulnerable.

The organizations conduct drills for evacuations, using stretchers to transport injured individuals, fire extinguisher use and other key responses to emergency situations. As well as leading her communities through these organizations, Ama Sumani has been inspired to take her own independent initiatives to promote disaster resilience. She has even turned her own home (pictured) into a store for resources such as emergency blankets and first aid equipment. Ama Sumani represents the dedication and empowerment which Community World Service Asia sees as crucial to building safety and security for vulnerable communities.