When Rukhsana Parveen and her family fled the floods, two of her sisters and her sister-in-law were heavily pregnant. Only two babies survived. “My sister became ill while we were living in a tent and we struggled to get her help. After four days we finally got her to hospital where she gave birth to a dead daughter. The baby died in the womb,” says Rukhsana, 25, “probably because of the stress of the floods and the terrible conditions we were living in.”
When Rukhsana talks about the two babies that survived, a girl and a boy born days apart in makeshift camps, it is in the same, matter-of-fact tone. She explains that both birth and death are inevitable, floods or no floods.
Rukhsana is pregnant but after her sister’s experience, and having suffered a previous miscarriage, she is worried about her health. She has come to Islamic Relief’s mobile medical camp in Jada Chandia village where a female doctor examines her, offers reassurance and prescribes medication for anaemia and nausea.
“Since the floods I’ve suffered from several health problems, from allergic reactions to fevers and vomiting,” explains Rukhsana. “It has been very stressful. I was living in a camp for a month and a half, but I’ve returned home now. The flood destroyed one of the rooms of our house; we are now living in the other room, even though it is damaged.
My husband is a casual labourer but there’s no work at the moment. I am a graduate and a teacher, but I have to teach out of a house because the school I worked in was destroyed. Despite everything, I’m still teaching students of all ages, but most of them are from middle school.”
Fleeing the Floods
“The day the floods came, I heard the warning broadcast from the mosque, and we also got a phone call to tell us the canal had broken its banks and the water was coming. People carried their children and just fled in any way they could- by foot, or on whatever transport they could find. We went to Muzzafargarh, but they were evacuating the town, so we fled again and ended up on some high land called Jamal Wala. After 3 or 4 days we received a tent, but before that we were living out in the open without shelter. The tent was very small and open at both ends so the rain would pour inside the tent just as it did outside.
It was so dirty there in the rain and the mud, and even the water we drank was dirty and bitter tasting. I had such a fever because we didn’t know what was going to become of us or whether our homes would survive. All of us fell ill under this strain. Alhamdulillah apart from my niece, there was no other loss of life amongst us.”
Rukhsana is mother to three-year-old Sameer Hayder, and is concerned about the lasting effect the floods have on the young. “Children have been greatly affected by the floods and the displacement,” she says, “I’ve noticed a big difference in their behaviour and in their studies and I’m really afraid for them. Children who used to get 100% in tests are now only managing 50%. They’ve had such a stressful time and many had their homes destroyed. Lots of children lost their books and uniforms and most parents can no longer afford to replace them.
Parents are also stressed. You hardly ever see anyone laughing anymore. I used to see people smiling and happy, but now all I see are worried faces everywhere. No-one managed to take anything with them when they fled the floods and the winter is going to be hard. We need to prepare, but people have lost their livelihoods and homes and cannot afford to buy what they need to survive the next few months. We will need blankets and proper shelter to get through the winter.”
Islamic Relief is working to meet the needs of thousands of flood-affected families like Rukhsana’s. Our staff are providing essential healthcare, clean water and food, and constructing permanent homes wherever possible. This work can only continue with your support.