My post on our official blog

Rukhsana Shama, ActionAid Pakistan’s Women’s Rights Officer writes:
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One of the most beautiful valleys of Pakistan; Swat, portrays a very dismal picture with destroyed infrastructure, partially or fully damaged houses, displaced people and above all battered conditions of women and children. Although the resilience of people is commendable but the level of catastrophe is beyond the control of local people’s self help measures and sporadic humanitarian assistance through government and non-government efforts.
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It was a day less than a month after the flood, when I visited Swat on 27th of August. We visited the village Dillai situated in Union Council Bara Bandai in the east of Saidu Sharif and travelled in a make shift boat that took us from one side of the river to the other side where we took a car on a non existent road with big stones that would hit the bottom of the car, but there was no other option to reach to the road which would take us to the far off village of Dillai. This is one of the places where ActionAid Pakistan has been closely working with communities for relief work.
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I saw many small carriages over loaded with people and food supplies on the way. I was told by the local partner that the scarcity of fuel and bad road conditions the transportation costs have increased manifold leading to a consequent increase in various essential items of daily use. Medicines and life saving drugs are scarce with no proper medical facilities available to cope with epidemics.
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During the times of disaster and emergency people living at the margins of society like women and girls are always most affected with highly increased vulnerability. I met Naheed Bibi in Dillai, she is only 22 years of age and has three children, her husband died a year and half ago from an accidental army mortar attack, she has been living hand to mouth since his death and had to face various hardships because of non-supportive in-laws and very poor parents who live in another nearby village. She was struggling hard to cope with her husband’s death while trying to feed her three children when flood shook her life, yet again.
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“When the heavy rains started and the river Swat started rising abnormally, a lot of fellow villagers started shifting from the village, I was so scared but didn’t have any means to shift to a safer place. My house was in such a shabby condition, that’s why I spent one night in my neighbour’s house. The next day amidst the heavy rainfall the water entered into the village and I had to run to save the life of my children. I went to my parent’s house. Five days later I returned to my house and was dismayed to find that the roof had collapsed.”
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Naheed’s house has only one room. She has covered it with the tarpaulin that was given to her during the previous displacement, (during the military operation last year) . There are many stories of devastation and women’s sufferings and vulnerabilities. Most women and girls are suffering from malnutrition while they are more vulnerable to epidemics as the flood water has receded and the smell of rotten food, decaying bodies of dead animals and damaged drainage system is worsening while the forecast of more rains is looming as another threat.
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I met and heard many stories of women like Naheed who are vulnerable in the aftermath of catastrophe. Humanitarian organizations and INGOs like ActionAid with the help of local partners are reaching out to people and the vulnerable sections of society, but state’s response seems missing from all these efforts. The scale of peoples’ miseries is going to increase in the days to come, women like Naheed will not have any support mechanism, if some sort of planned and women centred sustained rehabilitations efforts are not adopted.
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“I will live in my house despite the collapsed roof, because I have nowhere to go and because my children belong here. I want the government to take measures to provide food for my children and I want my children to get education for a better life”, said Naheed.
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When I asked her how she wants government to respond to her needs, she showed me a piece of paper, saying that government has promised to give her Rs. 300, 000 as compensation for her husband’s death, when I saw the paper, it was just the photo copy of death certificate of her husband, while she thinks that it is some written documentation from the government and a promise of some sort of compensation.
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The authorities need to take contextualized measures to comprehensively respond to people’s need in various areas. People of Swat, and women like Naheed who are waiting for the compensation from the previous disaster need special attention, so that they can be saved from further destruction. It is very important to vigorously initiate a thorough programme of rehabilitation and reconstruction of not only the infrastructure but the lives of people, lives of women and children need reconstruction.
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The lack of state’s response and comprehensive rehabilitation plan will add to the miseries of people who are hit by catastrophe, one after the other. It is very important for the state to turn to the demands of these people and put in place a mechanism to rebuild the lives of women, girls and children.

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