In the field helping families stranded by Kashmir floods


October 14, 2014

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  • A group of women wait for boats to ferry drinking water to their homes in Indian-administered Kashmir. Many people in areas which are still inaccessible Photo: Gowhar Bhat/Mercy Corps

The Mercy Corps emergency team in Kashmir was on their way to deliver supplies in Bandipora district when they met Fatima — a 27-year old mother who was making the long trip home after traveling to a nearby village to gather a pot of clean water. She was waiting for a boat to take her across the floodwaters and explained that it can take her up to two hours just to make the trip for water each day.

Like many people in Bandipora district, Fatima lost nearly everything in last month’s Kashmir floods and worries most about her family and her children.

“I am not worried about myself, we need bedding and warm clothing for our children as our house is completely damaged and all the belongings, including the livestock, were washed away by the floods. We are at the mercy of God,” she said.

How we're helping

We are responding to continued urgent needs in these remote villages by providing bedding and matting, hygiene kits, safe drinking water and water purifiers to nearly 35,000 people stranded by the floods.

The hygiene kits include soap, a bucket, sanitary napkins, detergents, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, nail-clippers and a bathing towel.

Movement between villages in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir has been severely hampered by the floodwaters, making delivering aid a challenge — but one that our team isn't letting stop them.

“We had to take a boat ride as the roadway to the village has been washed away leaving it inaccessible and ignored,” said Gowhar Bhat, Mercy Corps’ communications manager in Kashmir. “We talked to a number of people who are putting up in makeshift shelters on the roadsides and river embankments as their houses are still submerged in water.”

The floods that inundated the Himalayan region of Kashmir, split between India and Pakistan, in early September were the worst in half a century. Torrential rains submerged whole villages and left buildings severely damaged and affected a total of 2.5 million people. Srinagar, the capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, was one of the hardest-hit areas — 500,000 people were forced to flee their homes when the flooding hit.

As one of the first international groups to respond to the disaster, Mercy Corps staff immediately began distributing clean water, medicine, baby food and sanitary items — reaching more than 30,000 people across Srinagar in the days after the flood.

What's next?

Now, our response is expanding to harder-to-reach villages in Bandipora district, where people are facing serious health risks because of floodwaters that still haven’t receded. Families in these 35 villages need basic hygiene and shelter supplies to survive as temperatures begin to drop.

Most people in this region make a living through agriculture, but any hopes for a successful harvest have been decimated. “The entire paddy crop was washed away in the deadly floods just when the harvest season had begun,” said Bhat.

Others earn a living through carpet weaving and shawl embroidery, but most have lost their looms and materials during the floods. “It will take them years to recover from the disaster.”

As winter approaches, our team is working hard to meet additional needs that people without homes face, including distributing warm blankets and clothing to help people manage in colder temperatures.