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September 13 2010

Pakistan: report from Charsadda, near Peshawar, where the Community of Sant'Egidio is bringing aid to the flood refugees

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A new mission for aid to flood victims in Pakistan began last week. Thanks to the synergy of the Italian Communities of Sant'Egidio and other Pakistani cities, these days many community groups are reaching some areas that still have not been reached by international aid.

From Islamabad, the record of a day in Charsadda, in the area of Peshawar:

It's still very warm in the great plains around Peshawar, but the water has not yet fully dried. By day the temperature is close to 40 celsius degrees. Some fields are cracked or parched by the sun, others are a big swamp. Now the blue waters of the river Indus and the more turbid Kabul flow quietly until their confluence, but the crops are ruined and the farmers are afraid they can not lay the seeds for next year. A distressing scenario appears as far as the eyes can see around the town of Nowshera: many simple brick houses have been invaded by the flood that exceeded two meters in height and has ruined everything. The walls were smashed, furniture rotten.

Past the first few days of emergency, when the population has had to seek refuge on high places like hills or highway surface, all the inhabitants now live in  big and small tent cities.

The military and some NGOs manage them and provide some food, but the service stops here. The displaced are forced to eat with their hands, to ration the water to take care of the few clothes arranged. It is not easy living in a large extension of mud and dust, after losing everything.

This is what the inhabitants of a tent camp in Charsadda (near Nowshera) told with tears in their eyes, 500 people, mostly children. They could not celebrate the end of Ramadan at home, as tradition requires. A large delegation of the Community (about fifty people from all over Pakistan and from Rome) spent a day with them, distributing aid kits tent by tent. We arrived by truck from the capital Islamabad, about 130 km, bringing dishes, cutlery, glasses, jugs and buckets for water, mattresses and sleeping bags to make a bit more dignified to remain in the camps.

Children smiled again when they saw each of them had received a generous amount of sweets and fresh vitaminic fruit juices for Islamic holidays. Boys and girls had their hands decorated with henna by some women in the community because this also helps to restore normality and a sense of celebration. The adults were eager to talk, to tell, to embrace these strangers who did not even speak their language: in fact this is the region of Pashtun ethnicity, and few know the Urdu or English. The men were moved, the women praied with their hands facing the sky and thanked Allah.

The distribution takes time, curious children follow us from one tent to another, then are called to a shelter space to play, sing and dance together. They form a huge ring-around-the-rosey pushed by the youth wearing white t-shirts with the dove and the rainbow. Some want to learn a few words in Italian. Air spread of songs of the school of peace.

They wake up  il piccolo Mansùr, nato meno di un mese fa nella tenda dalla giovane madre cui l’alluvione ha portato via tutta la famiglia. Mansur (The Victorious is the meaning of his name) has made it through his first days of life in these conditions. Her mother carefully sewed his dresses cutting fabric pieces from a shirt and skirt. But he and other children need clothes, mosquito nets, medicines for infections of the skin. We recorded all the urgent requirements and we will come back to bring them in the coming days.

Their families need hope for the future, asking not to be forgotten, not to be abandoned there. They hope that one day the schools will reopen and host again their children. They hope that the fields will return to produce the minimum necessary with which they have always gone ahead. We will return in a few days with aid and especially the promise not to abandon them but to be at their side for reconstruction.

The little Mansùr, born in a tent




reason: "Pakistan Emergency"


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Comunità di S.Egidio-ACAP Onlus
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