SUKKUR — In the ad-hoc child malnutrition facility at the Railway Hospital in Sukkur, mothers cradle and nurse their toddlers, all emaciated and weakened. A row of beds runs either side of the ward in the brown and gray-painted Raj-era hospital, upon one of which sits three year-old Zamina. She was malnourished before the floods hit, but the flight from the family farm in Thulla to this heaving city in northern Sindh worsened the tiny girl’s condition considerably, says Dr Sakina Jafri, pausing to speak as she moved from bed to bed. “With the threat of disease all around, young children are most prone,” she said. “And when they are so young and are malnourished, it only adds to that level of vulnerability.”
SINDH PROVINCE, PAKISTAN – The bridge leads out of Sukkur to the town of Larkana, a two-hour drive to the north-west and closer to the restive province of Balochistan, home of a long-running separatist movement and, more recently, al-Qaeda and the Tehrik-e-Taliban. The turmoil caused by the monsoon floods has brought trouble to towns and cities that have been relatively calm and secure. Coming downhill over the ramp of the bridge, a crowd of around three hundred mainly men and boys were blocking half the road, fists raised and pointing toward whatever traffic came their way.
GARHI KHUDA BAKSH — Outside Garhi Khuda Baksh in Sindh Province, men, women and children lie under upturned beds which have been propped up at an angle with sticks or broken-off tree branches. Those I spoke with understand clearly what the disaster that has befallen their country means. “We have been set back thirty years,” said Fatima, a mother of seven ,and one of twelve people seeking shade under a rough-and-ready shelter made from plastic sheeting and bamboo, loosely tied-down with rope and a peg on two corners, running diagonally from top-right to bottom-left.
LARKANA – It is 40 degrees celsius in the mid-afternoon. Buffalo submerge themselves in floodwaters covering farmland to cool off. Only their heads are above water as they snort and shake to dismiss the morass of flies buzzing around. For many among the estimated 6 million people now homeless by the floods in Pakistan, such comfort remains elusive. Many are still without basic shelter and rest under trees, under their carts, and beneath makeshift canopies fashioned from beds, blankets and whatever bits of timber or trees they can find
SINDH PROVINCE — Dirty, tired and bedraggled, Imran beckons us over to the women who fled their village. They came thirty miles on foot only to spend almost three weeks here in the dead heat at this makeshift camp outside Sukkur in southern Pakistan. “Take some photographs”, he implores. “You sure this is OK?” I reply, our conversation translated from Sindhi to English and back again by Nizam Ud Din Bharchood, a long time charity worker for Hands, a NGO based in southern Pakistan. “Go ahead, he insists!” assured Nizam. Often foreigners cannot take photos of women or girls in Pakistan, but Imran waives this, showing a canny insight into how best to raise awareness about his people’s plight. The ladies, adorned in their assorted pinks, greens and orange veils, clasp their children close and sit atop a rusted old bed, one of the few possessions they managed to carry from one of their houses. Photo taken, Imran explains their plight. “We are here twenty days now, without any shelter and only a little food.”
SUKKUR — On the road in from the airport, the water shimmered under the moonlight as men, women and children sat in the dark, near the would-be lakeshore. During the day, river dolphins can usually be spotted in the nearby river. It sounds idyllic, you might think, but not so. This dusty and ramshackle town is at the front-line of one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters in living memory. Usually there is no water lapping up at the roadside, and the only people there would be those out for an evening snack after the daytime Ramadan fast.