Pakistan: Four days old and the roof caves in

Lal Khatoon and baby Abida join other families taking refuge from the rain in a roadside shelter.

The following is excerpted from an account by Oxfam media officer Tariq Malik, who recently visited flood-affected areas of Pakistan.

While witnessing the ravages of rain in the southern Sindh province, I stopped at a roadside relief camp in the Nandu area of Badin district. A middle-aged man beckoned me to come and meet a family that had taken shelter in a brick shed. The shed is meant for passengers traveling along the road to use for rest. There was a curtain - a patchwork of nylon on the door - and inside a woman sitting hunched on the floor, baking bread. I was soon to find out that her name was Lal Khatoon.

A baby born in the midst of disaster

Lal Khatoon comes from Shadi Lal in Badin – the first and worst-affected district in the recent rains, which has experienced continuous rains since the second week of August….She gave birth to her seventh child during the rains. She was lucky not to have faced any complications during childbirth, as there was no trained health worker present at the time of her delivery.

But soon, she was faced with another challenge: when her baby girl was four days old, the roof of her one-room house [collapsed]. Lal Khatoon had to leave on foot and without any belongings….

We manage by skipping meals

Lal Khatoon and her husband work as sharecroppers. After working the land for a year, her family gets to keep 25% of the total crop – which is barely enough to sustain them. There is nothing left over once she’s seen to the needs of her family, so she has no savings.

[After leaving her home,] Lal Khatoon and other members of her clan walked for miles carrying her newborn baby, Abida (”worshiper of God“), and three younger children until a military vehicle picked them up and took them to a government camp in Union Council Nando, where she received a 10kg bag of flour from the government - an amount she is told will be delivered every ten days.

“We manage by skipping meals," she says, "and by eating a quarter or sometimes, if we’re lucky, a half a piece of bread.” During the rains, they went without food for ten days, as the stock they had only lasted for a week.

Lal Khatoon lives in constant fear: how will she manage to care for her child, who is already sick with skin rashes and diarrhea? How will she build back her house? The land she worked is underwater, and it will take at least six months for it to be cultivable again….

Oxfam is rushing aid to the flood-affected areas of Pakistan, supporting search-and-rescue operations and delivering clean water to areas hit hard by the disaster. We aim to reach 850,000 people with clean water and sanitation and help many of those who have been displaced gain access to food and the means to earn a living.

Donate now to support relief and recovery efforts in Pakistan.

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