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Pakistan: Rains are Indiscriminate...What About the People

Published: Tue 6 Sep 2011 03:39 PM
September 6, 2011
An article from Pakistan Today forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission:
Pakistan: Rains are Indiscriminate... But What About the People?
By Amar Guriro
A small classroom of third graders of a government primary school located in the outskirts of Tando Bagho town of Badin district, Sindh province was packed with a large number of people and their belongings. Smoke was emitting from a corner of the room, where a lady was trying to set alight cow dung and wet wood so she could cook food.
Ten-year-old Sakina was shouting hysterically and her confused mother was helplessly trying to figure out how to keep her daughter silent.
Sakina was born with a physical disability that doctors call rheumatoid arthritis and also mental disturbance.
The disease has left Sakina completely dependent on her parents and siblings since childhood.
“She is sometimes in severe pain and whenever she is in this state, she needs silence to recover, but that is not possible here in the relief camp. I am simply trying to ease her, but it seems it will not work,” said her mother. Sakina is just one of around 7,000 physically- and mentally-challenged people of Badin district alone affected along with around 5.2 million people of the five districts of Mirpurkhas division by the recent monsoon rains, which caused breaches in Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD), flooding a vast area and uprooting such large population.
An estimation by independent sources claim that apart from standing crops, livestock, government buildings, roads and other civic infrastructure that washed away with these floods, about 5.2 million people in the southern districts of Sindh were displaced and become homeless.
Among these people, children, elderly people and women, especially pregnant ones, suffered tremendously. However, the worst sufferers were the people with disabilities and according to the local NGO activists and aid workers, there are around 7,000 physically- and mentally –challenged people, majority of them children in just one district - Badin - who were forced by recent monsoon rains to leave their homes with their parents and move to relief camps.
Badin, being at the tail-end of the Indus River, keeps suffering from sea intrusion, floods, heavy monsoon rains and breaches in the outfall drains.
The district is supposed to be the poorest one in the province, causing an increase in people with mental illnesses. Though there is no any official data available, but independent sources said that among these people, almost half are suffering from mental diseases and the remaining are physically-challenged and are handled with special care.
Among them, some are disabled due to polio while others have genetically inherited diseases for which healthcare experts hold family marriages responsible -- a large-scale practice in Pakistan.
Even though the national census of Pakistan 1998 states that approximately seven percent of the total Pakistani population is disabled, healthcare experts and researchers estimate that it is much higher of than this figure. Experts believe that apart from those who are born disabled, the people who become disabled after losing their limbs or other body parts in earthquakes, bomb blasts or other incidents have never been counted.
The federal, provincial or district governments and even aid workers, NGOs or international donors have also never given special consideration to this vulnerable group of population in their relief or rehabilitation work.
''When government authorities and donors are not caring much about the normal disaster-hit population, how can they give any extra consideration to people with disabilities,'' said Association for Water, Applied Education and Renewable Energy (AWARE) Chairman Ali Akbar Rahimoon.
He said that during the recent monsoon season, a large number of people have been affected in lower Sindh districts, but despite the passage of a month, the government is yet to start relief work.
The prime minister, National Assembly speaker, Sindh chief minister and several ministers have visited the affected areas, but relief work is still nowhere in sight.
The government authorities have not even ascertained the total number of the affected people in these districts so far.
"Even if the authorities concerned calculate the total number of affected people, the government, international aid organisations or local charities would only focus on normal people and personally, I believe, there is discrimination against people with disabilities," said Rahimoon. After observing complete negligence of relief workers towards special people in relief efforts, a small group of AWARE members started counting them in Umerkot, Tharparkar, Tando Muhammad and other areas despite the fact that it is not a donor supported project. "We do not have any donor support for this work, so we have asked local philanthropists to supports us in this noble cause" added Rahimoon.
His organisation is seeking special walking sticks, white-canes, wheel chairs, urine bags, portable commodes, pampers, special medicines used by disabled people, toys, clothes and other essential relief items for the physically-and mentally-challenged people affected by the rains.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
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