News / Asia

Eid-al-Fitr a Somber Affair in Pakistan as Flooding Affects Millions



Celebrations for the holiday Eid-al-Fitr in Pakistan are muted as millions of Pakistanis continue to suffer in the wake of the country's worst flooding.

The heavy rains came to Pakistan just before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, known locally as Ramazan, arrived.

Sunrise-to-sunset fasting is the key component of the month.  And while Eid-al-Fitr marks the end to the fasting, there seems to be no end in sight for millions of Pakistanis who were caught in the floodwaters.

Pakistanis normally celebrate Eid at home with their families.  But for many of the flood survivors, that is no longer an option.

Mohammad Urs lives in a tent camp in Thatta in the southern province of Sindh. He says he does not know where his brothers are.  He is trying to get in touch with them by phone.  He says that this is not a happy Eid.

Sindh province is now bearing the brunt of the disaster.   It took about a month for the floodwaters to settle there after traveling from Pakistan's northwestern mountains, down the country's large Indus River, to the southern lowlands along the coast.  In its wake, millions are finding shelter in makeshift tent camps across the country.

Arshad Begum is a volunteer female health worker, ministering to those displaced near Nowshera in northwestern Pakistan.  She says that the area's conservative attitude has put a further strain on the victims.

She says the victims complained that they could not have anything more than a single date for the Iftari, the nightly meal that breaks the fast in Ramadan.  She says they insisted on this practice, even though they had nothing to eat in the early morning meal.

Some of the more fortunate Pakistanis who did not suffer in the flooding have donated items to the families living in tent camps.  Others are dedicating their Eid prayers to the victims.

Doctor Khurshid attended prayers in the capital, Islamabad. He says everyone must remember the flood victims. He urges people to share their Eid greetings with the survivors and try to help them.

Meanwhile, local television showed Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in Karachi Saturday participating in special prayers for the victims.

The worst flooding in Pakistan's history has killed more than 1,700 people and affected nearly 20 million others. Even as the rains die down, the Pakistani government and humanitarian agencies are voicing concern regarding a follow-up heath disaster.

Oxfam estimates that in less than three weeks, the number of cases of acute diarrhea, skin diseases, acute respiratory infections and suspected malaria have all tripled.

Some flood victims also have turned their anger on the government and the military, in at least one case looting a relief convoy in the city of Sukkur loaded with supplies.  The victims accused government officials and the Pakistani army of keeping the supplies, a claim both entities deny.

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