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Rains slow, but urgent needs remain

Pakistan, September 26, 2011

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  • drilling_for_sweet_water-tando_bago-badin-1.jpg
    Photo: drilling_for_sweet_water-tando_bago-badin-1.jpg
  • main-road-from-tando-bago-to-hyderabad.jpg
    Main road from Tando-Bago to Hyderabad. Photo: Syed Israr Shah/Mercy Corps Photo: main-road-from-tando-bago-to-hyderabad.jpg
  • drilling_for_sweet_water-tando_bago-badin-2.jpg
    Drilling for sweet water in Tando Bago. Photos: Syed Israr Shah/Mercy Corps Photo: drilling_for_sweet_water-tando_bago-badin-2.jpg

The rains have mostly stopped for the past week, and we can see some slight decrease in the level of water where we're working — but that's relative. In far too many places, the view is one of a vast lake or river, where there should be none. For those tens of thousands — if not hundreds of thousands — still sleeping rough out in the open, the week of no rain has offered at least some respite.

Right now, the most urgent needs are safe drinking water, emergency health services, shelter, household items, including water storage and special awareness building around hygiene and sanitation. With so much water contaminated, we've seen alarming increases in waterborne diseases all across the South.

Filtering water for drinking

In the eastern corner of District Badin, our small emergency team has been working for the past week to find suitable water sources to set up our water filtration plant, donated by ITT. While our plants filter out bacteria and other contaminants, the problem we're facing is the salinity of the water. Previously sweet water sources have mixed with floodwaters to become salty and unsuitable for drinking.

After several failed attempts and with the help of local government officials, we've finally been able to locate a suitable water source in the town of Tando Bago. Proper drilling is underway and we should be producing about 4,000 liters per hour of clean, safe water for the people of Tando Bago and to be trucked by government and local NGO partners to other IDP locations by the middle of this week.

Crucial harvests wiped out

All of Sindh province is primarily an agricultural area with farmers growing food for their own consumption and cash crops to sell on the market. Livestock are also crucial. From the figures we have now we've learned that:

  • the main cash crop, cotton, has been approximately 80 percent wiped out
  • chilies, tomatoes and onions, around 95 percent
  • sugar cane, 30 percent
  • and banana trees, around 50 percent

This not only puts an immediate food security hardship on these households, but also means they'll have nothing to sell in the market and thus also no income to buy food or medicine or to start the process of rebuilding their homes. The impact of this flood is going to be felt long after the floodwaters have receded.

Deploying mobile health units

With funding from donors, we've set up a small office and emergency response team in the town of Badin. This team is working closely with all the governmental line offices to secure permission for drilling and filtration plant set up, coordinating with them and with other local and international NGOs to avoid duplication and a consistent approach and are now in the final stages of setting up our first filtration plant.

We've also hired on local medical staff there in Badin and are sending a month's supply of drugs and two ambulances for two Mobile Health Units. They'll be able to start work on Tuesday and be out providing medical assistance around the areas of Tando Bago and Chabrello in District Badin. Each MHU will be able to see 50-100 patients per day.

A long-term recovery ahead

As NGOs, UN agencies and local government rush to provide emergency needs, we shouldn't forget that these people's livelihoods have been wiped out. They're going to need help to rebuild.

We have good experience here in Sindh doing just that through cash-for-work activities to rebuild local infrastructure and homes, as well as injecting cash into the local economy, and in supporting the rebuilding and restocking of local businesses through small business grants.

Communities are also desperate to build back better by investing in drainage canals, water diversions and community safe areas to help minimize the impact of future floods.