Conflict Then Floods -- Pakistani Family Shows Resilience

Published on 04 October 2010

Khaistan Jaan says flooding in the Swat Valley of Pakistan is the second event in two years to drive her family from their home after the oubreak of violence in 2008. Copyright: WFP/Natasha Scripture

The floods in northwestern Pakistan hit an area already reeling from conflict. People like Khaistan Jaan had just returned home when rising water forced them to flee again. Now she and her family are starting yet again – sustained by food aid as they dig irrigation canals and plant fruit trees.

SWAT – Khaistan Jaan, an elderly woman from the Khyber Pakhutnkhwa (KPK) province in northwestern Pakistan has spent most of the last two years waiting to come home.

In 2008, she and her family fled their farm in the Swat Valley amid escalating violence along the border with Afghanistan. But no sooner had they returned than she and her family of 21 were forced from their homes again by the devastating floods this summer.

Achievements and challenges

More than two months after the onset of flooding in Pakistan, the food relief effort has accomplished some major achievements in the face of ongoing challenges. Find out more

“It seems never ending,” says Jaan. “We have to move when there was fighting, and then we came home and had to move again when the rains came.”

Double tragedy

In addition to their home, Jaan and her family lost their onion harvest and their prize ox. Jaan points to their one remaining head of livestock, a scrawny little cow that will be of little help ploughing the fields next year, and shakes her head: “we’ve lost our onions and our ox. We’ve got nothing left.”

Jaan’s family is not alone. Over 200 of their neighbours are also homeless again and, like them, all too familiar with WFP’s emergency menu—fortified wheat flour, cooking oil and high-energy biscuits.

Just as this food saw them through their flight from home during the conflict, so it remains their one certainty in the aftermath of the floods, as their thoughts turn once more to starting again.

Hard at work

Now that the floodwaters have receded, Jaan’s family have begun “earning” their rations through work on coordinated projects to repair the flood damage and rebuild their community. They now spend several hours a day digging irrigation canals and reclaiming the paddies that were buried by mudslides.

They’re also replanting hundreds of peach trees, a Swat Valley specialty jeopardized when weeks of standing water rotted the tree roots wiping out entire orchards.

Nate Amal, 55, is working alongside Jaan’s husband on the projects and says they give him a rare sense of control over his destiny. “I left my home and all my belongings,” Amal recounts. “I felt helpless, but this work makes me feel strong again.”