Monday, 21 February 2011

What does it smell like there?

PAKISTAN - “What does it smell like there”? I asked the World Vision Pakistan Advocacy Manager over the phone to Sukkar, in Pakistan’s Sindh province. “When you get close to where the people who have been displaced are living the smell cannot be described”, he said. “My throat was burning, my eyes were itching and I wanted to vomit. The stench was coming from the water and the mud; from the bodies trapped there. Eight thousand people are living here in this stink. They have been here for three weeks. The worst cases of malnutrition are really bad, distorted skeletal faces and pale skin”, said Sarmad Iqbal, World Vision Advocacy Manager in Pakistan.
He added, "Children are suffering a lot from skin diseases. They play in the water because there is nowhere else for them to go. They need child friendly spaces and health care".

[Image][Scabies]Little mites burrow around under your skin. They defecate there causing inflammation and intense itching[Image] Sarmad was seeing what the flood leaves behind. A tide-mark of misery. The numbers of people in need are simply overwhelming the efforts of government and aid agencies alike.

Further to the south the flooded river at Khaipur is so wide it’s only just possible to make out the other side. Twelve hundred people here were the first to be flooded out. They built their homes close to the river bank and farmed their fields and plantations of bananas and dates in the river plain. Now they sit at the water’s edge under dark green relief tents or gaily coloured tents normally used for weddings.

They can see their roofs just under the water and the tops of their trees breaking the surface. They have a large number of buffalo, cows and goats with them, grazing free but all sleeping crammed together with the children. The animals are tethered to tents or beds during the night. The ground is covered in animal dung and is getting worse every day. Added to this is the solid waste from the houses. The people have no toilets, only the mud around them to defecate on. It’s hot and humid, noisy and crowded. The government says people will be here for three months more before they can return to their homes. Sarmad says the smell here is intolerable as well.

These are just two of thousands of communities of people displaced from their homes by the flood. Common problems of overcrowded and unhygienic living are causing widespread ill health. Skin diseases are rife amongst children in particular. Scabies is epidemic.

Claire, one of World Vision’s health specialists explains what scabies is. “Little mites burrow around under your skin. They defecate there causing inflammation and intense itching. You scratch and get them under your fingernails and so they spread. They also get into the seams of your clothes and only boiling or hot ironing will kill them. If you brush your infected arm against someone else the mites pass to the other person”. In the overcrowded conditions of the displaced people in Sukkar and Khaipur and where the floods have struck all over Pakistan, scabies is spreading like wildfire. The treatment is a pesticide solution you paint on your skin. It only works if you break the chain of infection by boiling all the clothes and bedding of the whole family and of everyone else you are rubbing against every day.

[Image]The flood and disease gush like water from a broken main but the tap delivering resources seems stuck three-quarters shut[Image] The floods in Pakistan have surged through the country from north to south causing immense damage and suffering. In their wake people are living in unsanitary conditions crowded together amongst mud and filth. Children have nowhere to play but in the flood water and silt. Adults have no way to keep their families clean and disease free. Aid agencies and the government need money to provide medicines and clean water, food, shelter and child-friendly spaces.

The flood and disease gush like water from a broken main but the tap delivering resources seems stuck three quarters shut.

First published on August 23, 2010, 14:30. Last updated on August 23, 2010, 16:41.


No comments:

Post a Comment