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Pakistan: Assessing flood damage in Upper Swat valley

Written by Save the Children’s reporting coordinator in Pakistan

For the past two days, Save the Children teams have been working around the clock to provide immediate relief to the flood-affected communities of the Swat Valley. As the water has begun to recede, the sheer scale of this disaster is coming to light. Every time we receive news of the numbers affected, we become more and more committed to respond to this crisis with all our strength and capacity.

Yesterday, two teams of our staff ventured in different directions to learn the full extent of the damage and map out accessible routes for provision of shelter kits and food rations. One team crossed over to the western side of the Swat river into UC Tirat by sitting inside a small cart pulled through a simple rope-pulley apparatus over a fifty meter drop with raging waters below. They learned that thousands of acres of farmland have been ruined and vast numbers of livestock have been swept away by the flood waters. Food shortages are becoming more acute every day – a single bag of wheat is now being sold for 1,100 rupees (double the usual price).

The other team reached Madyan and attended a meeting of government officials, army and community influentials to discuss the emergency response. The market in Madyan now only has a few days stock of rice, cooking oil and lentils remaining. Attempts are being made to control the prices and keep them at affordable levels. There are also plans to transport essential food items on mules from UC Fatehpur.

The team also met people who had been walking from Bahrain for half a day to reach Madyan. They described the worsening situation in the city and the urgent need for food and health care. A few families had walked for two days from Kalam – the farthest most affected city in Upper Swat. They were hosted overnight by strangers in the village of Asreeth. Their stories from  Kalam were published in Pakistan’s newspaper today.

Save the Children began distributing items to make shelters with to families who have lost their homes in UC Fatehpur. However, there were heavy rains  today, stalling the distribution process since the beneficiaries were walking over hills and dirt paths to reach our centre. Save the Children been selected as one of the partners with the World Food Program to begin food distributions in the Swat valley.

I’ve also been speaking non-stop on the phone from 9 a.m. till 9 p.m. with various TV networks and journalists from around the world to report on the situation there. A CNN team was supposed to arrive today but was held back due to bad weather conditions. As we say in Paksitan InshAllah (God willing), the international community will fulfill its obligations for the relief of the flood-affected people in time.

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