News / Asia

Some Pakistani Flood Victims Camp in Middle of Busy Roadway

These Pakistani flood victims have set up camp near a busy roadway
These Pakistani flood victims have set up camp near a busy roadway


Sean Maroney

While the Pakistani government and humanitarian agencies have been making frantic efforts to provide assistance to victims of the country's worst flood disaster, millions still have received little or no help nearly a month later.  

Brightly colored trucks are a common sight speeding down the main roadway linking Pakistan's capital Islamabad to the northwestern city of Peshawar.  Vehicles on this road can exceed 140 kilometers per hour as they speed down two lanes on either side of a narrow strip of land.

It is on this small unpaved portion between the lanes of traffic near the Kabul River that you can see tents and plastic sheeting stretching far out of sight.

Orange cones block one lane of traffic on either side, and groups of children and men of all ages tiredly stare at the passing vehicles, alternating between swatting at the countless flies and holding out their hands for any form of assistance.  Nearly 500 families of roughly seven members each now call this home.

Mohammad Jan tells VOA his family, including four children, had been staying at a converted school in Peshawar, a common form of shelter for many flood victims.  But he says the camp closed because classes had restarted after the summer break.  This caused him to take his family back to their nearby flooded house.

But he says he is glad to spend most of his time on this high-traffic road.  He says at the other place, they were not receiving aid.  He says that now on the busy roadway, they are getting enough aid.

But from under plastic sheeting, Saif-ul-Islam says the road is a dangerous alternative.  He says that here, they also are facing many problems.  He recalls that a few accidents have taken place where children had been hit by cars.

Every other day, Dr. Shafique, the Peshawar District surgeon, distributes medicine from two vans.  He points to large, greenish pools of standing water that lie among the tents as sources of disease.  He says that combined with the volume of traffic and lack of electricity, the victims face many hazards.

"I think [it is] better for them to go back to their relief camps or some big refugee camps, not this.  This is haphazard I think, but it is better than nothing," said Dr. Shafique.

The flooding in Pakistan has killed an estimated 1,600 people and completely inundated villages, infrastructure and farmland, leaving almost five-million people homeless.

The Pakistani government has promised to give $230 to each family affected by the floods.  But for the people living along the roadway to Peshawar, they say this is nowhere near enough to reclaim their lives.

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