When I saw our gardener, Aziz, after returning from our vacation, the glint in his eye and smile on his face were missing. Two months earlier his grin was impossible to remove as he spoke of his fiancée back in Peshawar that he was planning to marry immediately after Ramadan.
Aziz’ village Didar Garhi which is 39 kilometres from Peshawar and lies alongside the Swat River is completely under water. The bridge that connects it with Peshawar has gone (this video shows the height of the bridge and the speed of the river in normal conditions). In his village of 600 homes and 1500 people, 200 residents were drowned in the fast rising waters.
The floods commenced on 28 July and people fled from the village the next day. In the exodus, Aziz’ family (his seventy year old father, mother, sister, brother, sister in law and their children) went to live with another brother and his family in the village of Tangi. All 20 members of Aziz’ family are now living under the one roof.
Little Help from Friends
The waters of the Swat River are still high and raging over Didar Garhi with no sign of them abating. Aziz’ family existed by growing rice and vegetables and raising three buffalo and one sheep but now their livelihood has gone. They and other residents of Didar Garhi have received no money or food from government sources, only a little from a rich man who is sharing his wealth.
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Basics and Rebuilding
The immediate need is for people like Aziz’ family to have money for food but just as urgent will be the need for medicines and vaccinations to stave off the ravages of cholera and other diseases. The UN estimates that 3.5 million children are at imminent risk of airborne diseases and 72,000 are at high risk of death.
Whenever Aziz’ family and others get back to their village they will face the immense task of rebuilding their house which will cost a minimum of half a million Pakistani rupees.
Like most other Pakistanis in Fujairah, Aziz regularly sends money back home to support his family. From his salary of 1800 AED per month he sends his family 800 AED which is used to supplement the food the family grows on the land. Even if this entire amount of 800 AED was used to fund a new house it would take Aziz 27 months to pay it off. In addition to building a new home will be the cost of replacing the buffalos (40,000 rupees or 1718 AED each) and buying seeds for crops.
Many of the Pakistani gardeners and taxi drivers in Fujairah come from in and around Peshawar and I am meeting an increasing number whose families who have lost their homes and are living in tents. Giving to people in the UAE you know like Aziz is a practical and personal way to help.
International agencies like World Vision and the United Nations (with the help of Angelina Jolie) have launched their appeals.
The Red Crescent, (Ph. 800 733 or 09-2222456) which has an office in Faseel, Fujairah, is a major local avenue for sending assistance.
The Pakistan Embassy in Abu Dhabi is appealing for help and this link provides details of how money can be sent to the chief authority overseeing the disaster relief.
The people of the UAE have been amazingly generous with the Red Crescent Telethon this month amassing 85 million AED but this flood is the greatest in Pakistan’s history with more than 20% of the land and an estimated 23 million Pakistanis being affected by the calamity.
P.S. Aziz's marriage has been postponed because of the floods but he hopes to visit his family and get married in October, 2010.
Image: Aziz and Pakistanis fleeing the flood waters.
This article is also posted on the Fujairah in Focus Facebook Page upon which many more articles and links are posted than on this blog.