The children of the floods

By Elizabeth Stevens
We are happy that we can play around the camp, but we are not happy about the heat and flies," say Nazia (left) and Uzma, who live in Nowshera district.

The flow of bad news out of Pakistan is unrelenting: more than 20 million people have been affected by the flood disaster, more than eight million acres of crops have been lost, nearly two million homes have been damaged or destroyed, and more than 600,000 people have contracted a dangerous form of diarrhea.

Yet, when Oxfam’s Mubashar Hasan visited children in a camp in Nowshera, what struck him was their resilience.

“I spent around an hour and half in this camp discovering how the children were passing their time,” wrote Hasan in a recent blog. “Like children everywhere, they were playing. Blowing bubbles and playing noughts and crosses [tic tac toe].”

The heat is scorching and the flies are bad, but the children here are experts at making the best of things, and Hasan was greeted with smiles.

“It requires a lot of courage to smile when there is little or no food to eat, no home to live in, very little clean water to drink, no bed to sleep in, and no air conditioning or fan to cool down the burning temperature,” writes Hasan.

Courage is what the children of Pakistan’s floods have in abundance. That, and a sense of play.

A fourth grader named Rejagul introduced himself. His school is closed - one of more than 8,000 damaged or destroyed by the floods, and he lives in a settlement near a camp where Oxfam is providing clean drinking water. How does he spend his time?

“We run in this camp. We jump into the muddy water. We love to play cricket every day.”