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Pakistan floods, one year on: "Tell the world we're not terrorists"

29 July 2011

Pakistan floods, one year on:

RedR's Nic Scarborough recently travelled to Pakistan to document the impact of the devastating 2010 flooding and the vital role that RedR's humanitarian training has played in helping to rebuild lives. Here, he reflects on his trip and on some of the things he saw along the way.

I told some friends I was going to Pakistan. It got a few comments. One friend uttered a single word response: nutter.

That word seemed to encapsulate a few of the responses I got. That and things like, ‘Don’t get kidnapped’ and ‘You know it’s one of the most dangerous countries in the world, right?’

I thought I better start reading up. I went to a bookstore. Books about Pakistan have titles like, ‘Descent into chaos’, or ‘Terrorism ground zero’. I opted for one called, ‘Pakistan: eye of the storm’. Something to read on the plane.

I thought I’d check out some local sources too. Sindh province was where some of the worst flooding occurred last year and was on our filming itinerary.

Sindh police reported 2,926 cases of kidnapping and abduction in 2010. They detail all sort of crimes on their website – 31,191 cases were in a category called ‘miscellaneous’. I googled that word but am no closer to knowing what it means.

It seems even the catastrophic flooding last year couldn’t wash away the western world's view of this country.

Of course, there are dangers here. That’s why I went on RedR’s personal security training. If only to know how I might respond if I’m in the wrong place, at the wrong time, it’s worth it. That and what security procedures to take to keep you and your colleagues safe. Who wants to be a miscellaneous?

The first day’s filming we did was at this huge camp for people displaced by conflict in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province. When we arrived the camp management team informed us that there had been a blast a few days before.

Two days later, two people were killed and seven injured after an attack on a NATO oil truck. I’d seen five of these burnt out trucks on the sides of roads on the first day I arrived.

Next we spent the whole day with one small community that was hit by 18ft floodwaters last year. Everyone’s mud house was washed away whilst they clambered for safety: on a small piece of high-rise ground.

Within twenty minutes they were stranded on a tiny island the size of two bungalows. Several thousand perched there. It took two days before the water began to recede and help came.

When they finally got off the hill everything they had ever known was destroyed. Ninety per cent of the community were famers and relied on their crops for an income. They were waiting for their sugar cane, or maize, to harvest the coming September. It was completely ruined and the soil silted.

The people of KPK are renowned for their hospitality; the day we spent there was no exception. There was nothing they wouldn’t do for us. Towards the end of the day I was chatting with one of the male elders. He asked me what the filming was for. I told him I was gathering stories from people in Pakistan to make into short films and to help show the impact of RedR’s work.

‘Tell the world we’re not terrorists,’ he said.

Whether man-made or natural, Pakistani’s themselves are the first victims of nearly all disasters and attacks here. Now there's some food for thought.

Find out more about what RedR has achieved in Pakistan over the last year

Take a look at our compelling pictures from Pakistan, one year after the flooding hit.

Read about some of the ongoing challenges facing communities in Sindh province.

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Photo credit © RedR / Amir Mukhtar

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