04 February 2013
Everything they had was washed away; but RedR training means that next time floods come to Sindh, they won’t lose their homes.
Premi and her family live in Rojhi Kholi, a small village of 50 families in Pakistan’s Sindh Province. The Sindh is typically hot and dry, and when rain falls twice a year, it is just enough to irrigate the crops.
Premi and her husband work are cotton farmers like most of the others in their village. Each month they earn just £19. Making ends meet is a real struggle, but they usually have enough to eat, because the land is fertile.
In July 2011, times were tough for the people of Rojhi Kholi. They were in the middle of a harsh drought, and were totally unprepared for the devastating floods that hit the village.
“No one thought it would flood here, it has never flooded here before”. But after one day of torrential rainfall, homes were wrecked and possessions swept away. “It was horrific and chaotic; everyone was shouting and trying to save whatever they could”, Premi remembers.
As the water rose, she and her family fled their home, and moved to higher ground. They managed to save just one bed and a few blankets; everything else was washed away.
The toll of the floods on farmland across the Sindh was extensive. At least 1.7 million acres of arable land were inundated with water. Most people in this province live off the land.
Life after the floods was a struggle for Premi and her family, “We spent a few days under open sky and had nothing to eat. During that time the only thing we thought about was how we will live now. Our lifeline, the cotton crops were all destroyed”.
Like nearly 9 million others in the Sindh, they had to rely on food handed out by aid local agencies.
The agencies did all they could to help the communities of the Sindh survive in the difficult aftermath of the floods. They knew that teaching people to cope when floods struck in future was the most valuable gift they could give. But few of their staff were trained in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).
Local aid worker, Muhammad admitted, “We were planning to launch a project in disaster risk reduction but did not have anyone with the training”.
With funding from the Clothworkers, RedR ran a course in DRR which Muhammad and four of his colleagues went on. The aid workers RedR trained then taught whole villages how to prepare for disaster.
“We learnt to involve the whole community in conducting a risk assessment before the next floods come. Now we know how to help them to draw up a hazard map, identifying the weaknesses of the buildings in the village, and the capacity of each individual to help.”
RedR’s DRR training project covered 22 other villages besides Rojhi Kolhi. Ultimately RedR expertise will trickle down to benefit 15,000 people.
After the floods, the International Panel on Climate Change published a special report warning that Pakistan would only become more prone to climate-change induced disasters. Future flooding is inevitable in The Sindh; preparedness is key to the survival for the communities in this province.
Nearly 18 months on, Premi and her family still live in a one room house made from mud. Like the other villagers, they cannot afford to rebuild their home completely, but they are not as vulnerable as they were in 2011.
Premi is leading the women of her village and feels empowered by her training: “We did not know what to do last time but now we know we each have a part to play. We should not only rely on men. Now we women are working together with our men to strengthen our homes against disaster”.
Photo credits: RedR/Usman Ghani