Friday, November 26, 2010

Pakistan's flood survivors determined to help themselves

IRIN: In Pakistan’s northwestern Swat Valley, where the floods that swamped the country in August began, shock has given way to a new determination among communities to get back on their feet. “We really have no choice but to do so. Temperatures in this mountain valley will soon drop to minus 10 or 15 degrees Celsius; it will snow, many of our houses are damaged and we have lost bedding and warm clothes. We have to act now to survive,” said Zewar Khan, 40, in his village near the town of Kalam, in the north of Swat, one of the worst-hit areas.

Along with dozens of other men from his area, Zewar Khan has helped build a 50km road leading up to Kalam, allowing access to other towns in the region – essential for the transportation of food, medicines and other goods in winter. “The road is rough in places, but it is passable,” Zewar told IRIN. Fifty bridges were destroyed in the area, and have now been rebuilt – at least in rudimentary form – by men working with picks, shovels and their bare hands.

“The army engineers working in the area gave us some help, but they had a lot else to do. We realized it was up to us,” said Khan. “These people have done great work,” noted volunteer engineer Muhamad Zubair, 40, who offered his technical skills when he could travel to the area from his home in Mingora, the principal city of Swat.

Women are a central part of the recovery effort, knitting sweaters, working together in villages to stitch and fill quilts with cotton wool and to make warm clothing for children. “We lost all this when the floods swept into the homes. We need them now, especially for the children, and it is good to play a role to rebuild lives,” said Jamila Bibi, 30….

An aerial view from a U.S. Army CH-47D helicopter as it passes over towns in Swat Valley. Shot from ISAF Headquarters public affairs office, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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