|Posted by Aftab on September 5, 2010 at 9:02 AM|
Pakistan floods: 'The worst is yet to come'
Two women from Islamabad, who decided to put their personal lives on hold in order to help Pakistani flood victims, describe the areas they visited and what they did there.
Noor Aftab, former head of investments and treasury at First Women Bank
"It wasn't even a matter of choice. The only thing I could do was to go to the affected areas and try to help people there.
I am a board member of the Shahina Aftab Foundation, which primarily works on women income generation programmes. Once the flood happened, our focus shifted to flood relief. We created a crisis cell here in Islamabad and we started calling donors.
The area we are working is Nowshera and Risalaur in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, which was first affected by the floods.
We sent our first team there and the reports we got back made us even more determined. They witnessed people clinging to electric wire, they saw human and animal bodies in the water, they saw people drinking that water. They saw 3,000 women stuck on roof tops with clothes torn - these are women who cover themselves from head to toe.
When I went there we had limited supplies and we selected about 12,500 women to give it to. Some women hadn't seen food for days. They weren't acting rationally. They were pushing everyone else to get their hands on something to eat. They thought this was their last chance of survival.
We could either help a larger number of people, but only for the basics for a short period of time, or select a smaller number of people and work with them not just for their immediate needs, but towards their longer-term rehabilitation.
Millions of Pakistanis have been displaced by the floods We chose the second approach. We are now helping 6,000 people in Nowshera and Risalaur, but we have set a much higher target. The army is housing them in schools. But that's where the job of the army stops and our job starts. We want to help women in particular, create income generating projects for them and provide them with doctors and psychotherapists.
There was a woman who had a strange behaviour - I was told by people who knew her that the flood waters took her three children in front of her. Their bodies were found later. I saw children who were so traumatised that they wouldn't respond to you.
Some people have lost relatives, but everybody has lost their home.
Every time we send relief items, there was a sticker on them with our contact details. I gave my mobile phone and I am now constantly getting distress calls from various different locations telling us where people are stranded and in urgent need of help. Then we send a small team with supplies to those places.
I am horrified how many cases of acute diarrhoea there are. People in camps we visited have been wearing the same clothes and in come cases they haven't been able to wash their hands in ten days.
Women need sanitary kits. From all the calls we are getting - I think female sanitary items and dry milk for the babies are most needed.
We are using social media actively to reach people. We have a Facebook page and we just got a large offer of money from India. The interesting things is that many individuals from India have come forward with their offer of help.
The amount of damage is colossal and we are grateful for anything we get. One if every five Pakistanis is affected and we may be wondering if our little bit makes a difference. It does, because it's all the hope they have."