Malik Ibrahim is far from any large settlements, and was not reached for many weeks as floods swept through Pakistan. FH, with our local partner Interfaith League Against Poverty, started distributions of crucial supplies there about a week ago, and I was there to see it.
Houses made only of mud bricks have been swept away, literally dissolving in the flood water. When they lose their homes, people not only lose shelter but also the central location in their lives. They cannot cook for themselves, or care for their families.
We are distributing hygiene kits; kitchen kits to allow them to cook for themselves; tarps, bamboo and nails to let them build new shelter; and water-cleaning supplies to help them filter or purify the now-stagnant water which is the only thing they have to drink.
When I arrived a distribution was ending, having reached another 200 families. A few yards away the families who had received kits a few days before had put up their shelters and were using their hygiene kits. Children played between the tents. In a few homes, new simple water filters sat attached to their buckets. The sun beat down, and it was good to see that these children would not have to quench their thirst by drinking from the standing water which lapped behind a mud barrier a few feet high just outside the village.
FH’s manager on the ground in Malik, Saleh Uddin, told me that a few days before a meeting had been held with a newly-formed local committee, educating the community about good health and sanitation practice. This is an important part of helping the helpless – not just those made homeless by the floods, but those who were powerless before. By engaging them, as well as local influential community figures in the decisionmaking process, we make them stakeholders in the change brought by lessons like these.
Local people were engaged in their recovery from day one, moment one. Saleh Uddin writes ‘it was a really amazing day, to see local people participating like this’, and I saw the fruit of that just days later. It is so important, in recovery, to ensure that people, not provisions, are at the heart of the work. People must own their own recovery.