The Drowning Country

I know I’m supposed to finish my long overdue Feminist in Mecca post (the one previous to this). But after returning from a summer away, the worst floods Pakistan has ever seen have engulfed our lives and overwhelmed us in every way possible.

I live in the worst-hit province, Sindh. It’s the southernmost province, so the Indus eventually flows into a delta and then empties out into the Arabian Sea. The thousands of gallons of extra water from the floods, the unprecedented rainfall, and the melting glaciers has made its way down here and turned half the province into a giant lake.

The scope of the human suffering is unbelievable. I have several friends involved in relief work through organizations they either head or volunteer with. Others are from landowning families, driving up — or attempting to — reach their lands and see what the damage is. Crops have been destroyed. People killed. Houses and villages submerged.

Whoever has survived has done so with the clothes on their back. They’ve had to wade through neck-high water, men, women, children, the elderly, along with cattle, dogs, cats, snakes. Now they sit on roads, surviving on the charity of others. Beyond Dadu, children are eating grass.

Diseases are spreading already. Mosquitos the size of squash balls are transmitting malaria and dengue. People are suffering from wounds, from rashes, from infections. Women are using leaves to manage their periods. That last fact made me participate in a small drive to get menstrual products out to women and girls who only have the clothes they’re wearing, and no way to wash them if they get soiled.

Until the rains stop and the waters recede, we won’t know the extent of the damage. So far we know that 1/3 of the country is under water. 50 million people have been affected or displaced. The crops have been ruined: sugar cane, onion, wheat, rice. There’s no safe drinking water anywhere.

We’re in survival mode. Have you ever wondered what it looks like when a nation drowns? Now you know.

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