Pakistan: “My worst fear is that my only child will die”
As floodwaters rose, 19-year-old Hajira and her husband Abdulaziz barely had enough time to grab their 7-month-old child, pack a few clothes and escape to a road on higher ground.
“We were terrified. It didn’t stop raining and when the water reached our knees we decided to flee,” she recounted. “We spent days under the rain; children were crying of hunger everywhere. We didn’t know what to do.”
More than two months after unprecedented torrential monsoon rains ravaged Lower Sindh in southern Pakistan, affecting some 5.4 million people, Hajira and her family still have not returned home.
No clean water
Most fields in the area remain under water and thousands continue living in miserable makeshift tents, without access to clean water or sanitation and surrounded by clouds of mosquitoes at night.
But Hajira’s problems did not stop there. Soon after their narrow escape, her son got sick and quickly lost weight. “He became ill, started vomiting and had high fever. Look at him now, he even has trouble breathing. I’m so afraid.”
“We’ve lost everything and have almost no food,” Hajira said. “We get water from hand pumps, but it’s polluted and smells and tastes horrible.” Nearby, Abdulaziz, 24, flashed a tiny card showing that his son weighs 2.4kgs, a third of the normal weight for a child that age.
We stood in a Save the Children emergency nutrition centre at the heart of Badin district, one of the worse hit areas. Children are screened here and mothers provided with medicine, high nutrition food, hygiene materials and mosquito nets.
Diseases such as pneumonia and acute respiratory problems are spreading quickly in this region with stagnant floodwaters becoming breeding grounds for waterborne illnesses. Cases of malaria in Badin have increased by 20% among children in a week.
Unlike other mothers here, Hajira and her family are able to stay at her sister’s home, a shack made of wooden sticks not far from the school. But with the fields still flooded, their outlook is bleak. Her husband used to grow cotton, rice and sugar cane, making 100 rupees (70p) a day.
His fields are now flooded. To make matters worse, he owes a year’s wages to the landlord – like countless other small farmers in the region. “It will take at least a year to return to the land; it’s contaminated and will become too salty, but I cannot leave until I repay my debts,” said Abdulaziz. “I’ll do anything to survive, I’ll try to work in the city, but there are few jobs around. My worst fear is that my only child will die.”
The post was written by Alfonso Daniels, Media Manager, Save the Children