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Life on the edge in Layyah camp

By Tariq Malik
At a camp for displaced people in Layyah, Pakistan, a banner hung by Oxfam and local partner group the Doaba Foundation requests that people keep the camp clean to promote good health.

In the excerpt below, Oxfam’s Tariq Malik reports from a camp for people displaced by floods in the Layyah district in Pakistan's Punjab province. Get the latest updates on Oxfam’s response to the floods.

The Layyah district is among the worst hit in Punjab. Some 364 villages are completely destroyed, displacing 300,000 individuals, according to an assessment by the Doaba Foundation, an Oxfam partner providing relief to the affected communities in the district. The district government here has established 22 relief camps for displaced people.

With an Oxfam team, I visited a camp that houses 2,600 people in the Karor sub-district. It's a well-managed camp: there are water pumps and 16 latrines, eight each for men and women. A local philanthropist provides cooked food. Two police officials keep watch at the entrance.

In and outside the camp premises, we saw all kinds of animals: buffalos, cows, goats, sheep, and camels with their little ones. People were arranging fodder for their animals and were sitting close to them. "They are very poor people to whom a loss of a hen is unbearable, and they have lost everything, including their homes," said a relief worker from the same district. Most people living in the camp do not own any land, and animals are all they have.

The Doaba Foundation is doing wonderful work in coordination with the district government and rescue agencies. They have also helped to register 937 individuals in 20 camps and have distributed 445 hygiene kits. Each kit contains:

  • 12 pieces of bath soap
  • 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds) washing soap
  • Soap case
  • 1 "lemon max" washing bar
  • 10 sachets of oral rehydration salt
  • 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) of cloth
  • 1 bucket
  • 1 nailcutter
  • 1 "dentonic" tooth powder and
  • 1 comb.

Zubair Iqbal, the camp manager, said that the heavy rains during the last three days have created difficult health and hygiene conditions.

According to locals, faulty building practices have contributed to the damage. Nazeer Ahmed, a volunteer working in the camp, said: "Traditionally, there were 10 tributaries to the Indus River that now stand blocked, thanks to building on that land. And since there had been no floods in years, people had moved into the river bed. The damage was inevitable."

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