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More than 5 million people are struggling to survive in the wake of a new wave of severe flooding in southern Pakistan, including many families still recovering from the catastrophic 2010 floods. More than 1.8 million people are displaced, facing a harsh winter. Spearheaded by our in-country relief expert Riaz Khalil, AmeriCares has responded with distributions of non-food items and is preparing support for free medical camps to help families in desperate need. Once such distribution took place in Haji Amir Shah camp in District Badin, where 325 families received cooking sets and plastic mats. Below, we have a touching glimpse from our partner in the region of what life is like for one young girl and her family.
A little girl, shy and hesitant, with a concerned expression on her face, grabbed our attention during a recent relief distribution in Haji Amir Shah’s district Badin.
“I am Sameena,” she said. “My mother is too ill to come and collect our relief goods, so I came in her place.” Her expression brightened once she received the kitchen set and plastic mats, and she smiled as she returned home.
Right after the distribution, a team visited Sameena and her family. They learned that Sameena’s father, Mr. Laal, was also ill with heart disease. Since she was the eldest sister, Sameena was responsible for taking care of her three sisters and her brother, living in a cramped tent with her ailing parents. Her parents are weak and lack access to basic medical services. The team observed her siblings wandering about without proper clothing or shoes.
Before the 2011 floods, the family lived in a nearby village, where Sameena’s father worked the fields and earned a living for the family. The floods destroyed the fields and swept away the family’s cotton crop, leaving them in debt, homeless, and ill – dependent solely on humanitarian aid. Sadly this is true for 80 percent of the people living in the district who earned a living in agriculture.
“We didn’t know that one day our only shelter and livelihood would be washed away by the floods, and we would need to roam about for a piece of land to live on,” said Mr. Laal. “But we still find ourselves lucky to have a donated tent, food, and now these items.”
Saleema’s mother explained that the one small tent provided very little protection from the elements or sleeping room for six family members. She expressed concern about her children being unprotected, exposed to epidemic diseases and snakes. At the same time, she is very grateful for the relief they receive. The cooking sets and mats have helped create a more organized way for the family to sit down for meals. “Before, there were not enough plates or utensils. Now, having these pots and plates, I can serve the food among all my children, equally,” she said. “We are very happy and pay thanks to those who came to us with a sympathetic and caring hand.”