Floods devastate Pakistan, government adandons people

Stranded flood victims in Pakistan.

By August 12, more than 20 million people had been affected by the floods in Pakistan. Waters remained at dangerous levels in several parts of the country, with more torrential rains forecast by the weather department.

This has been one of the most devastating floods in world history. The UN has once again appealed for donations for Pakistan. But the international response has been slow.

After destroying most of Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa and Southern Punjab, the water has now washed down the Indus River Valley, causing a deluge in Sindh. The water has been powered by unusually fierce monsoon rains that began in the country’s northern areas about three weeks ago.

Roads, bridges and other infrastructure have given way, overwhelming the government's ability to cope. At this point, about 1600 have been killed and a further 5 million have been left homeless.

Thousands of acres of crops have been destroyed. Houses, livestock such as cattle and goats, household goods, clothes, shoes and other items have been destroyed. Residents of villages are without drinkable water, food or shelter, and are in need of clothes.

In particular, the situation is dire for children and women. Due to the lack of drinkable water, disease is spreading rapidly in the affected areas. Flu, fever, diarrhoea, and cholera have been reported.

The government’s response has made matters worse. It failed to act immediately, leaving tens of thousands unaided. It came after 24 hours to the makeshift camps with paltry amounts of food to distribute. The gap between the food being distributed and the large number of people desperate to eat led to fights breaking out.

There is little coverage in the media, but the situation in Baluchistan is just as bad as in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa and western and southern Punjab. As usual, Baluchistan is not at the top of the government's priority list.

The Labour Relief Campaign (LRC), launched in October 2005 after an earthquake killed nearly 100,000, has put up relief camps in several parts of Pakistan. The LRC springs into action whenever there is an emergency situation.

Member organisations include Progressive Youth Front, Women Workers Help Line, Labour Education Foundation, National Trade Union Federation, CADTM Pakistan, Labour Party Pakistan, Pakistan for Palestine and Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee. The Lahore fundraising camp at Regal Chouck is raising thousands of rupees every day in aid.

An August 12 LRC meeting in Lahore resolved to continue the relief efforts and to raise funds from Pakistan and abroad. It decided to focus relief efforts on three areas: Sibbi district in Baluchistan; Layya, Rajan Pur and other districts Southern Punjab; and Charsadda and Noshehra in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province. It also decided to take up the relief effort for Afghan refugees in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province.

The meeting decided to launch a political campaign to expose the human-made nature of this disaster and the total failure of the ruling class in Pakistan to deal with the emergency.

LRC spokesperson Abdul Khalid Shah held a press conference in Lahore on August 13 to call for the total cancellation of foreign debts in the wake of the devastating flood.

[Farooq Tariq is the Labour Party Pakistan national spokesperson. Reprinted from www.laborpakistan.org .]