PAKISTAN: Back to square one for many

People in Pakistan's northern conflict zone, here being rescued by the army, have suffered repeated calamities/Photo: IRIN

Many of the victims of the current floods, which the Pakistan government says have now affected 13.8 million people, were still recovering from past disasters or conflict when they were hit by this latest calamity.

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“My brother tells me from our village near the town of Sharda in the Neelum Valley that the house we finished building just two years ago, after our old one was destroyed in the 2005 quake, has been badly damaged by the rains and torrents coming down from the hills,” said Rafiq Muhammad, 50, who runs a tea kiosk in Islamabad. The Neelum Valley in Pakistan-administered Kashmir was one of the areas worst hit by the 2005 quake, which killed at least 73,000 people.

Muhammad lost a son in that disaster and now works away from his mountain home to “help pay the medical costs for my wife, who still has pain from a back injury sustained during the quake and also suffers depression”.

While the Neelum Valley is reported by the media to have been badly hit by floods, damage assessments are still continuing in the area. So far, 63 deaths have been reported in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Over 20 landslides block the Neelum Valley Road, making rescue attempts and aid delivery difficult.

In the town of Kabal in the Swat area of the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) local residents are also trapped because of roads blocked by landslides. The army has been using mules to move in supplies, but people are desperate for more aid.

“There are people here who have not eaten for two days or more,” Wali Rehman, a resident of Kabal, told IRIN by phone. “We thought our troubles were over because after the conflict ended last year, we had been gradually able to rebuild our lives.”


The floods have hit many parts of Swat affected by fighting between militants and the military which was most intense between May and July 2009. After the fighting, like other people in Swat, Rehman replanted crops, repaired his home and moved his family back to Kabal.

“I really hope we don’t have to leave again,” he said. His family has been cash-strapped since 2005, when the quake in October partially knocked down the house of his in-laws near the town of Besham in Swat, and Rehman contributed to the costs of rebuilding it. “We barely recover from one catastrophe when the next strikes.”

In the southwestern province of Balochistan, where the impact of the floods is beginning to be felt in Nasirabad District and the town of Dera Murad Jamali, people affected in 2007 by Cyclone Yemyin, which killed 380 people in the province, are also being affected again. Provincial authorities say around 83,000 people are homeless in Sibi Division.
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations