Just days ago, the surging River Kabul broke a protective embankment, flooding villages and hundreds of acres of farmland in Nowshera district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Islamic Relief had been trying to reach stranded families, but 7-8 feet of surging floodwaters held us back.
Alhamdulillah, since the waters have begun receding we have been able to get through, providing over 200 families with desperately needed food packs filled with staples such as flour, rice, cooking oil, pulses, sugar, tea and salt.
But while the rains have stopped, many places remain submerged. Worse, new monsoons are expected this month. What new horrors lie ahead for those who have already suffered and lost so much?
Scenes of devastation
Almost everywhere I looked in Nowshera, I saw devastation.
In this area, floodwaters killed 10 people. Hundreds of houses were washed away in the torrent, leaving families with only the scant protection of makeshift tents perched on slivers of higher land. Some people managed to save charpoy beds, some had blankets, but most had little more than the clothes they wore.
Damaged buildings had begun emerging from the waters. Searching for something – anything – salvageable from their former lives, or perhaps simply trying to make sense of the destruction, some people clambered through their ruined houses. Watching them, I offered up a silent prayer for their safety: those damaged, unstable structures were liable to collapse at any moment.
A disaster of almost incomprehensible heartbreak
The heart-breaking scenes in Nowshera echo throughout Pakistan, for this is a disaster on a scale that is difficult, perhaps impossible, to fully comprehend.
Triggered by a ‘monster monsoon’ and a heatwave, glaciers burst, rivers surged, and one-third of the country sank beneath the water. The result has been unprecedented destruction across all of the country’s provinces: more than 1 million homes destroyed, 3.5 million acres of crops ruined, and 33 million people affected.
As I talked to Nowshera families about this ‘monster monsoon’ season like no other, I felt heartsick at their suffering. They desperately needed food, water, shelter and hygiene kits. Left with nothing, they faced deadly diseases such as cholera and malaria, which are already on the rise in flood-affected areas.
Humanitarian aid is getting through, but the needs are huge – and likely to grow
Islamic Relief are working tirelessly to reach communities in dire need but collapsed bridges and damaged roads make progress slow and sometimes perilous. We are doing all we can, and thanks to the generosity of our supporters we have been a lifeline for more than 20,000 people so far.
However, the needs here are huge. Humanitarian funding is falling disastrously short of the $160 million for which the United Nations has called to support relief efforts like ours. Pakistan faces a staggering loss and damage bill of up to $20 billion: a sum it is unable to pay on its own.
Somehow, in the weeks and months and even years ahead, the people of Pakistan must rebuild their lives and communities. And they do so in the certain knowledge that this disaster will not be the last. Already no stranger to flooding, the country is on the frontline of a climate breakdown which is nearing a point of no return.
Islamic Relief will remain by the sides of flood-hit communities
Islamic Relief has been working with vulnerable communities in Pakistan for over 30 years, and will remain by their sides throughout this disaster and beyond. We will continue to provide lifesaving aid. We will help communities rebuild and fortify themselves against the devastating effects of the changing climate.
And we will continue to demand that world leaders act, at last, right now, to tackle the climate emergency. To do otherwise promises more misery, not only for Pakistan, but for everyone, everywhere.
Support our life-saving emergency response: donate to our Pakistan Floods Appeal now.