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L’année dernière, le Pakistan a été confronté à l’une des catastrophes naturelles les plus dévastatrices de son histoire : des inondations meurtrières ont causé de nombreux décès, tuant le bétail, endommageant et détruisant les infrastructures et affectant plus de 33 millions de personnes à travers le pays.
Cet événement tragique a laissé de nombreuses personnes sans abri et privées de leur principale source de revenus. Un an plus tard, deux familles des provinces les plus touchées reviennent sur cet événement tragique. Leurs récits de leurs pertes et de leur survie nous montrent comment cette catastrophe a affecté leur vie quotidienne et comment elles font face à leurs besoins.
Le Balouchistan est la plus grande province du Pakistan. L’année dernière, 34 des 36 districts et plus de 360 000 personnes ont été touchés par des inondations soudaines. Parmi elles, la famille de Jannan, qui vit dans le camp de réfugiés de Surkhab, dans le district de Pishin. Établi à l’origine pour servir d’abri temporaire aux réfugiés afghans, ce camp s’est transformé en une installation permanente qui accueille aujourd’hui plus de 150 ménages d’origine afghane.
“Mes parents ont fui l’Afghanistan et se sont installés ici. J’ai 42 ans et je dois m’occuper d’une famille nombreuse“, explique Jannan. “J’ai huit enfants, qui sont trop jeunes pour travailler, alors je quitte la maison tôt le matin à la recherche d’un travail. J’ai travaillé dans une mine de charbon et j’ai été blessé à la jambe il y a 4 ou 5 ans. Aujourd’hui, je travaille comme ouvrier occasionnel et je gagne parfois 300 ou 500 roupies [entre 1-2 dollars]. C’est difficile de survivre comme ça“.
Jannan s’est retrouvé à l’épicentre de la catastrophe lorsque les fortes pluies de mousson ont commencé. “Nous avons entendu dire que le barrage était sur le point de céder. L’eau s’est dirigée vers nos maisons, emportant tout sur son passage. Lorsqu’il a commencé à pleuvoir abondamment, nous avons entendu le bruit de l’eau vers 21 heures. Nous étions dans nos chambres lorsque j’ai demandé à tout le monde de sortir, et d’autres personnes nous ont rejoints“. La réaction rapide et l’ingéniosité de Jannan ont permis de sauver sa famille et ses voisins. Malheureusement, il était impossible d’emporter tous nos biens car l’eau montait rapidement. “Nos chambres ont été abîmées, l’eau est entrée dans notre cour et nous n’avons rien pu faire pour l’arrêter. Comme tout le monde se dirigeait vers les montagnes, nous les avons suivis. Nous avons passé quelques jours dans les montagnes. Nous avons dormi sur des matelas“.
Upon return, the family didn’t feel safe inside the house: rooms were damaged and rain continued to weaken the walls. Because of the wetness, the roof was becoming more and more unstable and finally started to lean down. “We did not sleep in our rooms for 4 or 5 days and spent all our time in the yard, although it was very cold. We managed to cover the roof with plastic only when the rain stopped, so we could feel a bit safer”.
In Balochistan, most villages access food through either borrowing or selling assets. The Surkhab camp is located 75 kilometres northeast of Quetta, the provincial capital, making it difficult for residents to access health facilities and for children to go to school. “We don’t even have enough money to buy a bag of flour.”, shared Jannan. “Children are sick and I have to get medicine for them every day that costs us between 1000 to 3000 Rupees [3,5 – 10 dollars] for each visit. So I just buy porridge for 50 Rupees and cook for all of us”. The lack of job opportunities, in addition to recurrent climate disasters, makes the future very uncertain.
Sindh province was one of the hardest hit by flooding in 2022. The most affected districts, such as Dadu, Khairpur and Mirpurkhas, remained underwater for nearly two months. In August 2022, 9.4 million acres of crop area in Pakistan were inundated, of which 4.8 million were situated in Sindh alone.
The family of Basri live in the close-knit community of Haji Wadhani Village in rural Sindh. While they were familiar with annual monsoon floods, the disaster that struck in the summer of 2022 was on a different scale. “My home is closely located near the river. Every year, floods drown this village and force us to migrate. When we leave our homes, we settle at the riverbanks or shelter at any safe location. But, if the stakes are high, we migrate to Makli [town].”
Basri, like many in her village, had never seen anything like it. As the water levels rose rapidly, she had to make a harrowing decision. With smaller children clinging to her, she evacuated their home with the help of neighbours and found shelter on higher ground. “We managed to shift some of our livestock to safe zones before floods, while I had to take some goats with me.” Once there, women had to split into small groups and walk a considerable distance to fetch drinking water. Families couldn’t purchase any food during these days and had absolutely nothing to eat for several days.
“I cannot describe in words the difficulty we faced at that time”, shares Basri, looking around her house. “Our homes fell to the ground, and the wall in front of us collapsed. The only thing we could do was to save our lives without thinking about our property or personal belongings”.
Basri recalls these tragic days filled with panic and fear: parents could not recognise their own children, and others did not even know the whereabouts of their children. “People in the village got sick. My father-in-law was not in a state of moving. We had to take him along with his charpoy. Despite our insistence with him to move out to a safe place before the floods were upon us, he denied saying that ‘I can’t leave while my children are drowning here.’ Chaos was everywhere and everyone was just trying to exit the hazard in any direction possible. “I pray that no one should ever experience this trauma.”
Basri’s family could return to their village after three long months in exile. “When we went back to our homes, we had to move everything back to its place: the walls needed mud plastering, every corner needed to be cleaned again. We couldn’t find much of our belongings either.” The family stays united through thick and thin. A couple of years ago, Basri’s life took a sudden and tragic turn when she lost her husband, leaving her as the sole caregiver for her children. This loss has left a significant mark on their lives. However, they have learned to be together in difficult times.
Basri and Jannan faced the daunting task of rebuilding their lives and houses. One year later, the impact of floods is still visible in their villages and lives and lack of job opportunities and unemployment remain the main obstacles for households to gain financial autonomy. According to the latest estimates, massive floods plunged a further 11 million people into food insecurity, and the projections for 2024 are likely to worsen. In the absence of continuous support to flood-affected communities, the road to recovery will be long and challenging.