Pakistan: Family Relies On Food Aid Until Flood Waters Subside

A picture of Amena, WFP beneficiary, whose village in the south-east of Mirpur Khas distric has been heavily hidden by floods. Copyright:WFP/Amjad Jamal

Amena is one of the millions of people who saw their homes and land submerged by water during the monsoon floods which hit southern Pakistan two months ago. She and her family are reliant on WFP food aid as they wait for flood water to evaporate, so they can start to plant crops again.

ISLAMABAD -- In a good year, when the harvest is plentiful, there is just enough food for poor families in the Sindh district of Mirpur Khas to get by. This year, monsoon rains left thousands of square miles under water, laying waste to crops and making millions of people dependant on whatever aid comes their way.

Among them is Amena, a grandmother with two daughters, a son, his five sons and her own elderly and infirm mother and father. When the floods hit her village in the south-east of Mirpur Khas district, they left  her house and the surrounding fields under 15 feet of water. The family moved to a makeshift shelter on the raised roadside, just clear of the floodwater.

“We had virtually nothing to eat – just some wheat seed that we boiled and ate. There were no markets open – and in any case, we had no money to purchase food,” said Amena, who has now moved back to her muddy village. “All we have to sell is our labour – but there is no work to be had now.”

Two months on, the floodwaters have barely receded. There is nowhere for the water to drain to. The land will only dry out when the water evaporates. Many villages are still cut off by water, with beneficiaries relying on WFP boats to travel to distribution points to pick up their rations.

Amena’s family recently received a WFP food ration for one month, so for the time being, they have enough to eat. But there is only enough food left to last them a week or so. They are due a second ration over the coming days, but with the current funding shortage, the ration may well have to be cut after that, or stopped altogether.

“WFP food is the only thing keeping us alive,” said Amena. “Without it, we are in God’s hands.”

WFP’s flood emergency operation still requires more than US$100 million, to provide food to up to 2.3 million people in the worst affected areas of Sindh and Balochistan. Current funds will allow the agency to continue the operation through November, but even with ration cuts, there is little chance of sustaining relief efforts up to the end of February, as planned.

Beneficiaries like Amena have already started selling off livestock to help make ends meet. Seed grain is already exhausted. But, as one villager said, that is not a problem for now. “It will be at least six months before the fields are ready to be planted again.”