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Some six hours from Karachi, we set foot on a wooden boat to sail through a village that was drowning in water. A village that could never have been imagined to be sailed through instead of being walked through. A village that once was home to over 2700 people and more than five hundred families. A village with green, fertile lands for pasture and two neatly built public schools for the children who called this village their home. A home that was no more for many.

After sailing for more than two kilometers through what seemed like a deserted ghost town, with houses half submerged in water, tree tops peeking out from under, an eerie sound of insects and nothing but mucky brown water under us, we reached a house which showed some sign of life and sound. The only inhabited house in the entire village. As we carefully stepped out of the boat, directly into a portion of the house, we were warmly greeted with a smile and a hug by an aging woman. She was Tejan, the proud owner of this fairly large house with five to six rooms surrounding an open patio in the middle.

The floors were muddy, with standing water in most parts of the house and in the patio laid some charpayis1 which had silver utensils lined up, like they were just washed. Tejan quickly commented, “We just got done washing all the utensils”. To which our natural question was how and with what they were washing their utensils and clothes (as those were also hanging freshly washed on the ropes in the courtyard). “We use this water (pointing at the flood water settled around their house). This is the only water we have access to. We use it to wash clothes and to bathe. We try to keep it in the sun so that the dirt settles down first. We used to have a water reserve (pointing at a water tank) but with the rains, it leaked and all the dirty water got mixed into it. So we have no option but to use this. We use it for cooking too.”

We were soon joined by a group of more women – young and old, living in the same house. Some six to seven families, all related presumably, lived in this once lively house. All the women were cheerful despite the experiences they had recently lived through and the conditions they were currently living in. These women, along with a few small children (a baby, one slightly older and a 13-year-old), were the only ones who had ‘willingly’ stayed back when the entire village was evacuated by army helicopters some three weeks ago. When asked why they had stayed back, they said they had to protect their home and their belongings and could not leave it to the water to take away.

After more casual conversation, it was revealed that this household belonged to a Baloch tribe, who are traditionally considered more conservative in this area, and Baloch women ‘never mingle with men from outside their community’. It was due to this very reason that these women, along with most of their children and babies, were ‘asked’ to stay behind and protect their assets so that they are not exposed to other men and other communities living in emergency camps or outside on the roadside (where many families of this village had temporarily settled).

Tejan is a widow and mother of eleven children, most of them married. Two of her sons live in this house with them. One of them, who works at a government office, returned to his job after the rains to ensure some livelihood remains. The other son, who relied mostly on their livestock and small agrarian garden, has temporarily settled on the roadside in a self-made tent with his children to get whatever in-kind support he can from government agencies, good samaritans or charity organisations passing by.

Since the monsoon rains hit their village two months ago, Tejan’s brother has been occasionally supporting their household – he sends in some dry food (like flour, lentils, sometimes milk) and water. The water he sends is treated like “holy water”, Tejan laughed. “We use it very sparingly as we know it cannot last all of us (women living here and children) very long. I do not think my brother can also keep supporting us more. His own house and lands have also been affected.”

With increasing food insecurity by the day, the iron ladies of this house must ensure that the food they get in charity must last them long enough to sustain as they have no idea when the water around their house and in their village will recede, or when they will receive proper help and aid. They are living in constant uncertainty. The only hope they have is their prayer and the belief that help will come. “We mostly eat one meal a day. That meal consists of some flour we cook together with chopped onions, chillies and rarely tomatoes (chutney). We cook all of it together because we do not have enough fire-wood or fuel so we cannot waste it on cooking roti and curry separately. The chai we make is not what we used to have before. Our chai was very good, now it’s just like warm water.”

“Many of us have not stepped out of this house since the floods. We stay here and look after the house and the little children. We do not let them go out much and have to guard them well as there are many snakes in the water that come to our house too. We have heard that a lot of the children in our village have also gotten sick. Moreover, just one trip, one side of the way, costs 50 rupees (US $0.21) per person. We cannot afford this ride up to the road so we let our sons and men bring to us what we need and what they can bring,” shared Tejan.

Skin and eye infections have become increasingly common among displaced residents of this village. Even the families living on the road cross through the water now and then and are exposed to all sorts of water borne infections. Tejan confirmed that the younger mothers in her house needed health and medical support, especially the ones with small babies. They could not afford going to the roadside in a boat, let alone traveling some far distance to a hospital.

While proudly walking us through her house, Tejan stopped at a door. A door that once led to her backyard blooming with fresh vegetables. With tears in her eyes, she showed us how it was all under 8 to 10 feet of water. This house was once her sanctuary, a place she was proud of and where all her happy memories were lived. If given a choice, she would never leave this house but living in the current conditions was challenging. They were without clean water, food, clean clothes, a secure house and a livelihood. The walls of their house were leaking and most of their outer walls were totally damaged. The only thing still intact was their dignity and that they will not let go off.


[1] A traditional woven bed used across South Asia

Thirteen-year-old Luqman looks outside his window, their house surrounded by up to 10 feet of contaminated water at all sides. Luqman is the only boy in a house full of women in a far corner of a deserted village deep in flood water. The only way to access the house is in a boat that costs PKR 50 for one person, one way, from the main road. He must take care of his mother, his younger siblings, his aunts and grandmother who have been asked to stay in their flood-hit house to safeguard the honour of their Baloch family. The older men of the house have evacuated to safer grounds and in make-shift shelters on the canal banks and roadside in search of relief and in-kind assistance.

Luqman was a regular student at the Public Boys Schools in their neighbourhood in village Sayandad Alyari of Jhudo district, Sindh. He was studying in Grade 6 and was very proud of his academic accomplishments so far. Excitedly, he took out his last report card and showed it to us with gleaming eyes. Since monsoon rains hit Jhudo district in early June, the public school in their village has been shut down for two months now.

Missing his school days, his friends and even the homework he got, Luqman is growing more and more tired and frustrated in his house. He has no one to play with. All of his friends and relatives from the village have evacuated to the roadside while he is stuck in the water-guarded house. His mother and grandmother do not allow him to wander off outside the premises due to a growing number of snakes in the water around and a high probability of skin infections caused mainly from water contamination. Many children and people from their village are falling sick and catching skin infections.

Every day, Luqman hopes that somehow miraculously the water level around their house and in their village would go down and things would get back to normal. He wished to have a hot, scrumptious meal – with fresh roti and fully cooked, delicious curry or vegetables. He was only eating half-cooked meals which did not taste that great these days. The water that they use in cooking is dirty and they do not have enough fuel or fire wood to prepare meals properly. This is the reality that Luqman and many other flood-affected children are surviving on a day to day basis.

Fifty year old Pehlaj works as a primary school teacher at a government school in Umerkot district of Pakistan. His co-education school is located in a remote part of Umerkot, with a student count of 262, and a total of five teachers.

As part of a training programⁱ for teachers, Pehlaj participated in three trainings focused on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE). The trainings aimed to increase teachers’ capacity on teaching in a pandemic environment, child-centrered and positive learning techniques. “This was a first of its kind experience for me. I became more acquainted with early-grade teaching techniques owing to the training, which also included classroom management, learning corners and class decorations. Additionally, the session on COVID-19 pandemic taught us practical steps to follow in schools to stop the virus from spreading among students and teaching staff,” shared Pehlaj.

Like other participants of the trainings, Pehlaj received an ECCE kit at the end of the training, which included stationary, poster cards, water colours, markers, wall clock, puzzles, play cards, learning cards of English and Urdu Alphabets, colour pencils and chart papers. “The learning kit was a good motivation and helped us make our lessons very interesting. Our students enjoyed learning through practical activities. I came up with a plan to develop identical kits for other classes at the school too.”

As a hobby and passion, Pehlaj also sings songs and performs as a professional dancer at religious activities for which he is paid mostly. Pehlaj turned down payments in the past and only recently has started accepting payment for his performing art services. “I began to accept PKR 5000 as remuneration for each performance at the festivals. I buy first aid kits, educational materials, stationery, and play cards for the students in Grades 1 to 5 with the additional money I make.”

The hygiene kits provided in the trainings focused on education during a pandemic, particularly COVID-19, have been quite useful, conferred Pehlaj. “I encouraged the students to use face masks and hand sanitizers in the classroom and made them wash hands with soap before and after lunch breaks. Additionally, we ensured phenyl was used to disinfect classrooms.” Pehlaj also oriented other students and teachers on COVID-19 SoPs through individual sessions in each classroom of their school.

A hand washing station was also installed in the school under the project. Students were oriented on effective hand-washing to prevent coronavirus.

“Students in remote schools have less resources to pursue a high standard of education and combat pandemics. This assistance was both necessary and timely. Our students are actively participating in their education activities and utilising classroom resources effectively,” concluded Pehlaj.


ⁱ Community World Service Asia & Act for Peace’s Education project

By Erum Noor Muzaffar

With the ongoing climate crisis resulting in extreme droughts and floods, it’s time to think about ways and means to combat natural disasters. In this regard You! takes a look at a Disaster Risk Reduction project initiated in Umerkot district, Sindh…

Warmer temperatures over time are changing weather patterns and disrupting the usual balance of nature– resulting in droughts and floods. Climate change and increasingly extreme weather events have caused a surge in natural disasters over the past 50 years disproportionately impacting poorer countries, stated the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).

Droughts are among the greatest threats to sustainable development, especially in developing countries. Longer, more intense droughts threaten crops, wildlife and freshwater supplies. In fact, forecasts estimate that by 2050 droughts may affect over three-quarters of the world’s population.

The participants at the recently-held seminar on DRR in Karachi
The participants at the recently-held seminar on DRR in Karachi

Umerkot District in focus

Water scarcity is one of the main challenges for communities in the Thar Desert, which also includes almost half of Umerkot district. Umerkot is located in the East of Sindh, about 60 km from the Indian border. Umerkot district has two distinct geographical portions: i.e. the irrigated area in the north and west and the desert in the south and east. One can see the sand dunes spreading towards east with thorny bushes. Towards west are the alluvial planes with vast stretches of vegetation. There is no river or natural stream in the district.

Water scarcity is a common problem in most villages of Umerkot. Rural women carrying matkas on their heads and young boys riding donkey carts to fetch water long distances away are an everyday sight here. The main sources of income of people of Umerkot are agriculture and livestock, which are totally dependent on the availability of water.

There are two types of water available in the area. The first source of water is the tubewell but it is bitter in taste and is undrinkable. The second type is the locally constructed wells that yield sweet and drinkable water, but the yielding process is very slow. The water from this point of source is collected on a first come first serve basis. The person who gets to the well first has the right to get water as much as he desires meanwhile the other has to wait long hours for their turn. Many of these wells are at a long distance from homes in most Umerkot villages and fetching water is often left up to the women or children of the house. This means long walks and waiting under the scorching sun for women, young girls and boys. And with long droughts on top, it becomes challenging for the people of Umerkot to survive.

Community World Service Asia, a humanitarian and development organisation, during its field operations observed significant negative impact on the lives and well-being of local communities due to chronic water shortage and drought. There was a need for enhanced disaster resilience among affected communities to ensure their access to water and build capacities on drought resilient agricultural practices.

Keeping that target in mind, Community World Service Asia (CWSA) with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan and the technical assistance of CWS Japan and Japan Conservation Engineers Co. Ltd., in collaboration with the Department of Rural Sociology Sindh Agriculture University of Tando Jam, implemented a drought risk mitigation initiative in Umerkot. The project, lasting from January 2019 to August 2022, aimed at enhancing disaster resilience of underprivileged local communities living in remote and hazard prone villages in Umerkot District, against droughts through improving their access to water and introducing new and sustainable agricultural practices.

TIME TO FACE THE CLIMATE CHALLENGES

Changing lives

Dai lives in Nau Subhani, one of the villages of Umerkot. Until 2019 when CWSA field workers visited it, the village had remained neglected. Other than a few underground rainwater harvesting tanks built several years ago, it had nothing to show in terms of modernity.

Though uneducated, Dai is a member of the Village Committee. She is vocal about community water woes. She told that their source of potable water was the army’s Water Point 3, about eight kilometres away by the roadside. This water carried tiny squiggly critters and it had to be put in either a plastic bottle or a cooking utensil and left in the hot sun for the worms to be killed. Yet, the water gave them gastric problems. The other source of potable water was the water tanker the community purchased from Umerkot. At Rs 7000 per tanker, this was no mean investment that lasted about twenty days in the crumbling underground tanks. Groups of three to four households would pool in the money. It is hard to imagine how a community living well below the poverty line could make such recurring expenditure.

After the necessary training in, among other things, kitchen gardening in 2020, CWSA provided the village with fourteen underground concrete tanks to harvest rain water and in 2021 installed a reverse osmosis (RO) plant to deliver 5000 litres over twenty-four hours. All of a sudden, the long treks and the longer wait at WP 3 were over. “With the underground tanks filled by rain, the training on kitchen gardening came in very handy,” expressed Dai. She was happy to harvest her first crop and her family dined on the best vegetables in a very long time. With the first vegetable harvest over with, she is preparing to plant the next batch of spinach, rapeseed and marrow. Thinking ahead, she is saving seeds from harvest to use again.

The story of Shaibaan is one of courage and determination. Living with her seven children in the remote village of Ratan Bheel in Umerkot district, Shaibaan is constantly multi-tasking to meet the needs of her family. Selected alongside thirty other women from Ratan Bheel and nearby villages, Shaibaan was trained on kitchen gardening techniques in March 2019. The group of women were familiarised on the concept of kitchen gardening. They were taught different vegetable sowing and pest control techniques. Shaibaan replicated the training in fourteen other households in her village. “I did not think of growing a kitchen garden in this desert area. When Shaibaan came to my house with this initiative, I was amazed to know how we can grow clean and healthy vegetables in our yards for our daily consumption when cooking food. We now have the pleasure of eating homemade nutritious vegetables of various kinds,” elucidates Saleemat, another Ratan Bheel kitchen gardener.

Another story is of Mariam, who lives in Dediyo Mangrio, a village in Umerkot District. She is also vocal like Dai and knows how the CWSA intervention has changed lives in their village. She is happy with the fuel-efficient cooking stove introduced by the organisation. “The earlier traditional stove used up to five kilograms of fuel wood to cook one meal for the family. But with the new fuel-efficient stoves that can take two pots at a time, the same amount of cooking consumes somewhat less than half that amount of fuel,” she points out. Mariam now devotes the extra time on her needlework and is making some money from selling her colourful rallis.

Mariam and her husband Sabir got their Disaster Risk Reduction training with CWSA and are now members of the DRR committee. The training taught them the imperative of collecting and storing fodder for the lean period. They were also made aware of their right over the Livestock Department and that they could demand for their animals to be vaccinated. Countless animals have been preserved in one year since the training.

Not only that, the RO plant installed in their village, also brought a wave of prosperity. The water tanker from Umerkot cost them a hefty Rs 10,000 which lasted four to five households about a fortnight. Exempted of that expense, the community is now spending the savings on education. Mariam believes it is her children’s education that will eventually change their lives.

(The writer is indebted to Salman Rashid for sharing stories of Dai and Shaibaan.)

TIME TO FACE THE CLIMATE CHALLENGES

National Seminar on Disaster Risk Reduction

Recently, a National Seminar on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) was held in Karachi. The seminar was organised by Community World Service Asia in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan and Department of Rural Sociology Sindh Agriculture University of Tando Jam. The seminar was attended by different stakeholders and media representatives.

Its aim was to promote a global culture of raising awareness on disaster reduction, including disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness among the Pakistani community most affected by recurrent climate induced hazards and supporting drought-resilient agricultural practices in rural communities. The event was designed to bring relevant stakeholders, including government agencies, public and private organisations, academia and the civil society together, who have worked together on mitigating drought impact in the Sindh Province and to explore collaborative efforts for more long-term resilience building.

TIME TO FACE THE CLIMATE CHALLENGES

“Pakistan is one of the co-signer countries of World Trade Organization (WTO). The agreements on Agriculture in the context of free trade worldwide have increased the responsibilities of agricultural universities of the country to groom and motivate the youth specialising in different disciplines of agriculture by strengthening their efforts manifold to face the competition in agriculture trade and services worldwide,” noted Dr Muhammad Javed Sheikh, Associate Professor and Chairman, Department of Rural Sociology, Sindh Agriculture University Tando Jam, while presenting his paper.

While talking about Electrical Resistivity Survey (ERS), Nazar Gul, Deputy Director, DRIP-PCRWR, Tando Jam, explained, “In districts like Thar and UmerKot, dug well water is the oldest and primary source of water. However, water supply from these wells is insufficient to meet the demand of the growing rural population. Anyone can install any number of wells of any capacity, at any depth and can pump any amount of water at any time. Drilling of wells therefore, entirely depends on the advice of the local drillers and wishes of the farmers. This practice has led to groundwater depletion, both quantitatively and qualitatively. And these wells dry out during the drought periods. The solution of this problem is ERS, a technique that is being used now to identify the viable spots or locations of great groundwater potentials. ERS is based on application of Ohms Law and measures the average resistivity of the earth on the ground surface. This method has advantage over others in the sense that water quality can be determined along with the specific yield etc.”

While shedding light on the salient features of the project, Tassaduq Hussain, Program Coordinator, CWSA, shared, “We provided relevant water related information to the locals. We conducted comprehensive 204 Climate Resilient Agriculture Training Sessions that benefitted 3,960 men and women. We also held 299 Kitchen Gardening Sessions where locals were informed about latest techniques, benefitted 5,759 men and women. We also conducted 207 community awareness sessions on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) with 3,894 individuals. The locals also got to know about Water Harvesting Tanks and R.O (reverse osmosis) Plants. During the project, technology transfer workshops were also held in a bid to update locals with latest technology.”

“Now, due to CWSA’s constant efforts in the last three years, access to agricultural water and relevant farming practice/technology is improved in drought affected areas. Communities have their village plans available which they can utilise to mitigate disaster impact. They are applying the learnings in practice. Farmers are practicing the learned techniques such as seed germination tests, etc. Community members use home based vegetable and utilising saved amount to fulfil other needs,” he concluded.

Erum Noor Muzaffar is the editor of You! magazine. She can be reached at iram29@hotmail.com

SITUATION ALERT

More than a thousand people have died and millions have lost their homes across Pakistan as torrential rains hit the country. Widespread rain and thunder storms have also struck districts Mirpurkhas and Umerkot of Sindh province, where a majority of Community World Service Asia’s humanitarian and development programmes are focused. These extreme rains are critically affecting vulnerable communities already living in poverty and has damaged infrastructure in the area, with no electricity and limited communication access.

People in Umerkot have been forced to abandon their homes as crops and livestock are washed away across the province. The flood-affected communities in Umerkot are in need of food, tents, clean drinking water, mosquito nets, ration bags and hygiene kits. Hundreds of miles of roads have been damaged, making many areas in Umerkot inaccessible to emergency services.

“Pakistan is in the middle of the food, climate, water, population and environmental crisis. Pakistan has faced 152 extreme events in the last two decades with constant shifts in rainfall patterns, intensity and frequency. We are also home to the hottest cities in the world for three years straight with temperatures rising up to 53.7C which is an unlivable situation,” said Sherry Rehman, Climate Change Minister of Pakistan.

Community World Service Asia is in coordination with the local government and other stakeholders and is closely monitoring the situation on the ground to start immediate relief operations.

Photo credit: www.dawn.com

The monsoon flooding in Pakistan continues to wreak havoc as 119 people have reportedly died in the last 24 hours, according to figures released by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), taking the total death toll from this natural calamity to 1,200. This year’s floods are being compared to that of 2010 – the worst on record– when more than 2,000 people died and nearly a fifth of the country was under water.

Thirty million people (about 15% of Pakistan’s total population) have been affected by the floods across the country so far, with ten million people left homeless, 800,000 livestock perished, one million houses completely washed away, over 200 bridges and roads collapsed and more than forty small dams breached since June 14th this year1. UNCOHA reports a total of 116 districts affected, including 66 districts officially declared ‘calamity hit’.

In Sindh province alone, the floods have killed more than 300 people. Along the narrow streets, people use whatever patch of dry ground is still available to pitch temporary shelter. In addition, almost 710,000 livestock are lost, and thousands of kilometres of roads and bridges destroyed. The floods have caused an earthquake-like destruction. Local communities in Sindh claim these rains as different – more intense than anything they have ever seen. One local official called them “floods of biblical proportions”2.

Mirpurkhas and Umerkot districts of Sindh were already severely affected by floods during the 2020 monsoons, which left agrarian communities at a huge loss of standing crops and agricultural property. People here had hardly started recovering from the shock of losing two cropping seasons, when their crops this year have again been completely destroyed. These communities are left with no option but to depend on humanitarian support for recovery and rehabilitation.

Impact of 2022 Floods in CWSA’s Project Area
District Partially Damaged Houses Completely Damaged Houses No. of Affected Union Councils Acres of Land Impacted Affected Population
Mirpurkhas 82,295 23,587 50 169,353 261,781
Umerkot 60,110 190 42 88,885 557,280

People from nearby districts such as Sanghar and Khairpur have also taken refuge in elevated areas in district Umerkot in addition to the district’s own population living on irrigated patches.  Affected communities from other districts are included in the number of displaced people recorded in Umerkot currently.

The rainfall received nationwide is 2.87 times higher than the national 30-year average, with some provinces receiving more than five times as much rainfall as their 30-year average. The climate minister, Sherry Rehman, said the country was going through its eighth monsoon cycle “while normally the country only has three to four cycles of rain”.

Millions are without food and shelter in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh provinces, which have been most affected by this “climate change catastrophe”. People have lost their homes, their cattle, their lands and livelihoods and are now totally dependent on humanitarian assistance. Affected communities are in immediate need of clean drinking water, food, emergency medical assistance, and shelter. The poorest and most vulnerable are on the frontline of this crisis.

Pakistan is eighth on NGO Germanwatch’s global climate risk index, a list of countries deemed most vulnerable to extreme weather caused by climate change.

We need your generous support to help flood-affected families and support them to rebuild their lives.

Community World Service Asia Response:

Community World Service Asia (CWSA) is in coordination with the local government and other stakeholders active in the area. Our emergency response team is closely monitoring the situation on the ground, is undertaking assessments and mobilising funds, preparing to start relief operations as soon as possible.

People in Umerkot ( a district where CWSA’s other humanitarian projects are already on-going) have been forced to abandon their homes as crops and livestock are washed away across the province.
Many sit with just beds – all their possessions lost to the water.
Millions of families are displaced amid the floods in Pakistan.
Thousands of marooned people are being evacuated by rescuers, aided by troops, according to the National Disaster Management Authority.
The situation is worsening by the day. These torrential floods have severely restricted transportation and mobility.

Contacts:
Shama Mall
Deputy Regional Director
Programs & Organizational Development
Email: shama.mall@communityworldservice.asia
Tele: +92 21 34390541-4

Palwashay Arbab
Head of Communication
Email: palwashay.arbab@communityworldservice.asia
Tele: +92 21 34390541-4

Sources:
NDMA Report
UNOCHA Report
www.dailytimes.com.pk
www.ifrg.org
www.tribune.com.pk
www.guardian.com


  1. NDMA report Aug 29th
  2. Bbc news -Aug 29th.

Many villages submerged in Sindh province in Pakistan after flash floods from Balochistan entered the province

More than 580 people have died (including 224 children and 114 women) and thousands have lost their homes across Pakistan as torrential rains hit the country. Widespread rain-thunderstorms with scattered heavy/very heavy falls, accompanied by occasional strong winds have struck districts Mirpurkhas and Umerkot of Sindh province, where a majority of Community World Service Asia’s humanitarian and development programs are focused. These extreme rains are critically affecting vulnerable communities already living in poverty and has damaged infrastructure in the area, with no electricity and limited communication access.

People in Umerkot have been forced to abandon their homes as crops and livestock are washed away across the province.

The flood-affected communities in Umerkot are in need of food, tents, clean drinking water, mosquito nets, ration bags and hygiene kits. A total of 1,860 houses have been damaged, affecting a population of 109,246 and displacing 18,207 men, women and children in Mirpurkhas and Umerkot.

An estimated 1 million people have been affected by heavy rainfall, flash floods and landslides since July as Pakistan endures more than 60% of its normal total monsoon rainfall in three weeks.

The worst-hit provinces include Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Sindh, and Pakistan is expected to see severe rain until Friday (August 19th).

Hundreds of miles of roads have been damaged, making many areas in Umerkot inaccessible to emergency services.

Approximately 200 people have died in Balochistan – Pakistan’s biggest and poorest province – which is suffering its worst floods in more than 30 years. The National Disaster Management Authority said the province had received 305% more rain than the annual average.

Climate Change Minister of Pakistan said the climate catastrophe in Pakistan is “a national security crisis.” Pakistan is in the “middle of the food, climate, water, population and environmental crisis.” Pakistan has faced 152 extreme events in the last two decades with constant shifts in rainfall patterns, intensity and frequency. “We are also home to the hottest cities in the world for three years straight with temperatures rising up to 53.7C which is an unlivable situation,” added the Minister.

Families have lost their homes and belongings as a result of the Heavy rains and subsequent floods.

Community World Service Asia Response:

Community World Service Asia (CWSA) is in coordination with the local government and other stakeholders active in the area. Our emergency response team is closely monitoring the situation on the ground and will start relief operations immediately when required.

Contacts:
Shama Mall
Deputy Regional Director
Programs & Organizational Development
Email: hi2shama@cyber.net.pk
Tele: 92-21-34390541-4

Palwashay Arbab
Head of Communication
Email: palwashay.arbab@communityworldservice.asia
Tele: +92 42 35865338

Sources:
www.dailytimes.com.pk
NDMA
Reliefweb
Gulf news

Gauri is the star of Rohiraro. As a very young girl in her parents’ village near Chachro, she taught herself cutting and sewing, got a hand-cranked sewing machine and started work as a seamstress. With a laugh she insists that she did not have a teacher, that she is entirely self-taught.

Marriage brought her to her husband’s village Rohiraro. Her man did not own any land of his own and worked as an unskilled labourer daily commuting the sixty kilometres to Umerkot for work. Together they had two children and with Gauri contributing to the family’s income from her tailoring, life seemed to be as good as it could be in a typical village of the desert area of Umerkot. But misfortune struck in 2008 when her son was still very small and her daughter yet to be born: her husband passed away in a road accident.

Perhaps another woman would have succumbed to despair, but Gauri was made of different mettle. She went into her tailoring work in overdrive. About this time she also learned to make those fancy and colourful naras (drawstrings for the shalwar). Virtual pieces of art, these strings are ideally meant to hang a little below the hem of the kameez1 and be seen.

Today as seamstress to her village, Gauri charges PKR 300 (Approx. USD 1.5) for a women’s dress and says she can do about seven dresses every week. That means a monthly income of roughly PKR 8000 (Approx. USD 39). At the same time, her colourful naras fetch up to PKR 800 (Approx. USD 4) apiece.

Though herself illiterate, Gauri is not unaware of the advantage of education. She enrolled her son in the local school, saw him through primary education and then sent him to the middle school at Ramsar village seven kilometres away. Though government schools do not charge tuition fees, she still had to pay for books and other materials the child used in class. She met these expenses from her tailoring income. At the same time, she graduated from her hand machine to a second-hand foot-operated model.

When the time came, she enrolled her daughter in the village school. The girl progressed to the third grade and that was the end of her education because, as it generally happens in remote rural schools, the teacher went absent. The son, however, did well and in 2022 was sailing through grade eight in an Umerkot school. Gauri had set her eyes on his education to at least grade twelve. Then, she said with a laugh, she would wed him off. She said she had no connections and could not get him a job, so being married was an appropriate alternative.

However, one could clearly see the mother who would succumb to her son’s desire to continue his education beyond higher secondary level and make something of his life.

Attending the village school and the one at Ramsar may have been affordable, but since the boy could not commute out to Umerkot and back on a daily basis, he had to live in a hostel. That cost money. And for that Gauri toiled every single waking moment daily on her sewing machine and the drawstring loom. Even so, she would sometime have to borrow to pay the hostel in Umerkot.

The first instalment of food aid saved her a considerable sum from her monthly income normally spent on food. Judiciously, Gauri paid up at the school hostel. With her loud, happy laughter she says she splurged the remainder attending a wedding in her parents’ family. The next goal is to save enough to wed off her daughter in style. After all, the girl is already thirteen. Gauri listens attentively to advice on waiting until the child is at least eighteen and smiles the smile that says mother knows best.

This was the day before the second instalment of food aid was due in Rohiraro, the question that came naturally was how she proposed to use the money saved from the purchase of food. Gauri looked thoughtful when Ashar of CWSA suggested it would be a good idea to stock her tailoring shop with material. This would make for greater convenience for her customers and more business for her because then she could also earn reasonable margin on the material.

The way her eyes lit up shows that well before the Humanitarian, Early Recovery, and Development project ends, Gauri might have a proper tailoring establishment in Rohiraro. This would then be the only such business for miles around in this part of Desert area of Umerkot. That would mean real business for a person as dynamic as Gauri.


[1] Shalwar kameez is a traditional combination dress worn by women, and in some regions by men, in South Asia, and Central Asia. Kameez is referred to the long shirt and shalwar is the trouser.

Village Haider Shah Bhiont is just under fifteen kilometres southeast of Umerkot. But so far as Rano and her husband Jeevo are concerned it could well be in the bone dry Takla Makan Desert. Young and married only five years, Rano has borne her man two children and carries the third in her belly in the hope that her third child will be born under a favourable star and the 2022 monsoon and many thereafter will be generous. Only then their investment in their four-acre plot will bring dividends.

The past year had been a disaster for the land that is the only source of income for this couple. Every year all his young life, Jeevo has tilled the land and in July looked heavenward for the dark clouds that would spell prosperity. When that failed, he went to work in the city as an unskilled labourer. As the summer of 2021 drew to an end without a drop of rain, Rano and her man watched the barely sprouted crop of guar, mung and millets wither away into the sweeping sand taking with it their entire investment of PKR 29,000 (Approx. USD 142) for the rented tractor and 160 kilograms of seed.

Inured to adversity, the people residing in the desert area of Umerkot do not give up easily. Even when hardship multiplies. And this happened when Jeevo’s mother passed away. Mourners poured in from far and near and as is the tradition, Jeevo was obligated to house and feed them for as many days as they remained in his village. That cost money which was borrowed from the local money lender against the four acres Jeevo owned. When the final account was written down, his mother’s death had cost the poor man PKR 300,000 (Approx. USD 1472). This huge sum had been borrowed purely on speculation that it would be returned when next crop would be bumper.

In November Jeevo went to work in Karachi while Rano struggled to keep her little children fed by purchasing provisions on loan. When he returned home two months later, Jeevo had PKR 10,000 (Approx. USD 47) in his pocket. Half of this was returned to the shop keepers as partial payment; the remainder saved to purchase the sweet water tanker as Rano says they had always done in her five years in this village. Ground water in the village, she adds, is too bitter to be used for anything but washing up and bathing.

The first good thing to occur for Jeevo was in February 2022 when he got a job as a driver with a fixed salary of PKR 10,000 a month (Approx. USD 47). That meant now there would be no uncertain days as he waited to be hired as labourer.

The next blessing was the visit in March by the Community World Service Asia team and selection of Rano and Jeevo as eligible for food aid under the HERD project1. The first distribution of food saved them Jeevo’s entire salary which went to repay the shop keepers. Again half of it was kept aside for the purchase of the next water tanker.

In May, having received the second instalment of food aid, Rano was making plans. They were to save Jeevo’s salary to invest in their agricultural land in the hope that the monsoon will bring rain. But now there is hope and with it plans. As a reasonably good cutter who has never worked as a tailor because she dreams of owning a sewing machine she could never afford, she looks forward to mustering some funds. If the machine would be within reach, she could set herself up as the village seamstress.

Meanwhile, the huge loan taken against the land stares the couple in their faces. Four acres even in the desert areas of Umerkot is a reasonable holding and in a good rainy summer can yield almost half a million rupees worth of crops. If fortune smiles on them, they will not only be able to sail out of their debt with plenty saved and Rano established as the seamstress to the village.


1. The Humanitarian Assistance, Early Recovery and Development (HERD) project funded by Presbyterian World Service & Development (PWS&D) and Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB)

In November 2020, a health committee was established in Muzzafar Husain Shah village under Community World Service Asia (CWSA) and Act for Peace’s health project. “I became a member of the committee along with four other women and five men from our village,” shared Ganga.

The Village Health Committee, comprised of local community members, supports local health institutions and healthcare providers in meeting the village’s health needs. They also assist CWSA’s health team in organising project activities and events in the area. Since the committee’s formation, Ganga has actively advocated for the needs of the women in the community, coordinated committee meetings, and referred pregnant and lactating women to CWSA’s health centre in Pithoro, not far from her own village. “I have held sessions for women and girls in our community to improve their awareness on malaria, breastfeeding, diarrhoea, and other ailments frequently prevalent in our area. The main goal of the sessions was to impart information on preventative measures to make communities resistant to curable illnesses and diseases,” narrated Ganga.

Ganga lives with her husband and three children in Muzzafar Husain Shah village, located in Umerkot district which is in the south of Pakistan. Ganga’s husband is the sole income bearer for the family and works as a farmer for a nearby landowner. “The income of our family heavily depends on the output of crops, which is closely correlated with the availability of water, capital, and weather. Our family’s monthly income of PKR 12,000 (Approx. USD 58) is mostly spent on purchasing food and household essential, educational supplies, and unexpected family gatherings.”

“I believe education is key in building a better future. For this reason, I encourage my children to go to school and study hard. My eldest son, 15, is studying in Grade 9 while my two daughters are going to primary school.”

In December 2021, Ganga took part in a training on community management skills. “The training improved the health committee members’ knowledge and abilities, enabling them to effectively plan and manage developmental activities and make better use of the available resources for improved healthcare access of underprivileged families.” The training increased Ganga’s ability to identify health issues and work with line departments and civil society organisations to coordinate the effective delivery of health services to local communities.

The committee members bridge the gap between the community and the government health department. “Because of my active work in the area, I was nominated by the health workers working in the vicinity for Measles and Rubella campaigns, run by the government’s health department. As a mobiliser in the 15-day campaign in November 2021, our team educated people about the need to eradicate Rubella and measles in Pakistan. I have also participated as a volunteer in the COVID-19 and Polio campaigns.”

As a committee member, Ganga has imparted to the communities with knowledge and raised their confidence to advocate for their health rights and engage in meaningful conversations with relevant service providers to address the challenges related to healthcare provision in rural regions. “I am proud to be a member of the committee since this opportunity has improved my skills and allowed me to change lives,” expressed Ganga.

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