Shabbir Ahmed (left) with his wife and brother as they prepare a meal on the banks of the canal where they took refuge in the beginning of August. Copyright:WFP/Amjad Jamal
“We never knew this rain would make us homeless – we are literally left with nothing,” says Shabbir Ahmed, a father of nine forced to flee the worst floods anyone in Punjab can remember. WFP is providing food to thousands of families like his as they wait for the waters to recede.
PUNJAB – With their homes and possessions swept away by the unprecedented floodwaters which have devastated Pakistan from north to south, Shabbir Ahmed and his family have taken refuge by a canal in Punjab’s Rajanpur district.
Almost everyone in flood-affected districts of south Punjab has a similar story to tell. Widespread monsoon rains that struck Pakistan’s north initially, are now playing havoc all over the country.
A nationwide catastrophe
Around 15.4 million people have been affected by what the government says are the worst floods in Pakistan’s history. Many of them live in Punjab, the country’s breadbasket, where they have lost their crops, animals and food stocks.
Many districts in Punjab are under water and are difficult, if not impossible, to reach by road. People are completely cut off from assistance. Many are on the move, trying to find a safe place at least to stay dry.
WFP has started distribution of food in these affected districts by providing much needed monthly food rations, but the needs are enormous. Shabbir and his family were among those to receive food over the weekend.
The water came at night
“It’s more than two weeks now, we have nothing to eat, no shelter. Rains which we consider a gift of God have turned into the anger of God. At least someone came to give us food, and some hope that we can now survive for few weeks.”
“The water came at night and we didn’t have time to save our belongings, we had to chose whether to save our children and ourselves or our property and assets, so we choose to save our kids. We left everything and ran to save our lives.”
WFP is providing 80 kg of wheat flour, 4.5 kg of high energy biscuits and 4 litres of oil to each affected family. The assistance will continue for three months to help them rebuild their lives as the water recedes.
When will we go home?
It is a huge task with up to six million people in need of food and the situation still evolving. The road network is badly damaged and impassable in places, bridges have been washed away and entire communities are cut off.
But together with its local and international NGO partners, WFP has been able to provide one-month rations to around one million people and continues to scale up distributions every day.
“We are now left at the mercy of God,” says Shabbir. “He has put us in this condition and we are hopeful He will give us relief too. But it is very difficult to survive in the open. Our kids are asking when we will go home, and we don’t have an answer.”