Shanza, 9, shares a cot with six other children in the abandoned school house where she and her family have taken refuge after losing their home in the floods. Copyright: WFP/Natasha Scripture
Punjab, one of the heaviest populated regions in Pakistan, was among the hardest hit by the floods. After losing their homes in the disaster, three families are now living together in an old school house. One of the kids in the group is Shanza, who has clear ideas about her future.
MUZZAFARGARH – “I want to be a doctor,” 9-year-old Shanza said, her striking blue eyes beaming out from under a yellow veil. She was a student of science and English in school before torrential monsoon rains swept her and her family out of their home last month.
Now she lives in a dilapidated schoolhouse in a village near Sanawan in Kot Adu with two other large families, and shares a cot with six other children.
“I miss my friends,” she says of her neighbours who also had to flee their homes and are now staying with relatives scattered across Punjab.
Eight-year-old Aysha, one of the girls who shares a cot with Shanza, said she too was scared when she had to leave her flooded home, but seems confident about the future. “My family will be happy again one day,” she says as she bounces on top of the cot, and pulls a chunk out of roti bread which has just been made with WFP wheat flour.
At Rauf Oil Mill near the town of Gari Qureshi, WFP provided food rations of wheat flour enriched with vitamins and minerals, cooking oil, high energy biscuits and ready-to-eat-foods for small children to 350 families severely affected by the floods. Sharifan, a widowed mother of five whose family has also taken shelter in the school house, was among women who came to retrieve food rations.
“My house was destroyed and my whole village was under water,” she said, holding the canister of WFP oil tightly to her chest.
“We have no land, no crops anymore,” she said. “I’m so happy that at least I have this,” she added, speaking of the 80-kilograms of WFP wheat flour she received.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, floodwaters have submerged about 3.6 million hectares of cropland in Pakistan and killed 200,000 head of livestock. Wheat prices have sky rocketed and families are struggling to feed themselves. More than 8 million people have been affected in the Punjab province alone.
The health and nutrition of young children is a top priority of WFP in emergencies, which is why it is stepping up delivery of specialised foods for infants and toddlers.
So far more than a million children have received nutritious high-energy biscuits and fortified peanut and chickpea pastes for those too young to eat solid foods.