August 17th, 2010
12:22 PM ET

Aid group preps for ‘second disaster’ in Pakistan

Many Pakistani streets and valleys are submerged in water, and in some areas you can't tell where the waterways end and the flooding begins.

In other locales, most of the structures are simple gone. Monsoon rains left about one-fifth of the country underwater, and children and adults wade through the filthy aftermath pleading for help.

Almost all the mud houses at Azakhel camp have been turned into clay.

Peter Biro of the International Rescue Committee, an aid agency, has surveyed the damage since relentless flooding two weeks ago washed over the country, destroying homes, taking lives and ruining entire villages.

"I was just walking down by the river and it’s completely devastated," Biro said. "Even the bigger houses are collapsing. The roofs are falling out. There are huge concrete slabs in the water and smaller houses are just gone. The poor houses have completely vanished."

In many of the areas struggling to cope with the floods, residents had already struggled with armed conflict in the area and were beginning to recover, Biro said.

That all changed with this month’s deluges.

"The big problem for the aid groups is how very difficult the area is to get through," Biro said, noting that for even aid groups and people who know the area well, getting to your destination is immensely problematic.

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"It's extraordinarily hard to get to anyone. Driving here, along the way you see all the bridges are damaged. Big concrete bridges that carried trucks are gone and, of course, the smaller bridges too," he said. "And it’s not just the big rivers that are overflowing; it’s small streams that are also creating a lot of damage, too."

The Afghan refugees have lived at Azakhel for decades. Now they have once again been forced to flee again, with many living on a highway.

Swollen rivers and tributaries in some residential neighborhoods breached their banks, making the flooding worse.

"There are just so many people who live close to one. How do you begin to fix the lives of millions of people?" Biro asked.

Despite the frustration and challenges, Biro and his IRC colleagues are pushing ahead to help whoever they can.

Once the floodwaters begin to recede, putting the Pakistani people back on their feet will be difficult. The dangers of flooded streets and villages will be replaced by the threats of contaminated drinking water, waterborne disease, cramped shelters and an inability to maintain hygiene, Biro said.

"People are being forced to drink bad water and we're seeing an increased number of diarrhea cases and skin infections," Biro said.

"And that is going to be the big challenge going forward. That's the second disaster."

A joint report last year by the U.N. and World Health Organization said diarrhea kills more children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

A refugee sits among what was formerly his home in the Azakhel camp near the city of Peshawar in Noshewera district, Khyber Pakthunkhwa province.

The IRC is hoping that by distributing water-purification tablets they can curb the spread of disease.

"The next critical step for us will be to clean out and disinfect wells and bring clean water via tanker trucks to the devastated communities," Biro said.

For many, the end seems far away. Gone not only are the towns and structures they called home but also the things Pakistanis need to subsist.

"Now the people, of course, have no income," Biro said. "They say they've lost their sewing machines, their bicycles that they run errands with. They have very little left."

For those staying in refugee camps, the situation was already desperate. Biro said one camp with 30,000 refugees was completely washed away, forcing these people to flee the very place where they once sought refuge.

At least 1,600 people have been killed and 20 million impacted by the flooding throughout Pakistan.

"They are just sitting around. A lot of them were sitting on the side of the highway under canvas tents," he said.

With aid sparse and food distribution slow because of infrastructure challenges, Pakistanis are relying on neighbors on higher ground who may have something to share.

"People keep saying that they don't have enough food. It’s donations basically, so that's a very strong component in people's survival – relying on each other," Biro said.

soundoff (128 Responses)
  1. blr

    We spent it all on Haiti. And their terrorist keep trying to kill our military in the region.

    August 17, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. UncleM

    Christina – you are living proof your god doesn't exist. If he did, the US wouldn't exist. Muslims will read your post and turn to the terrorists

    August 17, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Allaisax

      I dont think muslims will turn into terrorists because of Christina. They are born terrorists and they have manual for terror and it is called Q....!

      August 17, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sonny

      um.. yeah 1st our God does exist! 2nd whad u mean if he did us woudnt exist duh He created the whole world. Oh u think the world just one day magicly appeared? o.O well God created everything n some of the bad stuff that happens is cause we are being punished like a mother punishes her child for doing something bad << same thing

      August 17, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jetscreamer

    I think these muslims are just auditioning for SURVIVOR: PAKISTAN.

    August 17, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Chris

    With 20% of their country under water, there is no more excuses why Pakistan shouldn't do very well in the swimming parts of the summer olympics.

    August 17, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sonny


      August 17, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • dexter89

      Just like the americans should do very well in stepping on IAD's in the 400 meter dash! Racist pig

      August 17, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • dexter89

      I know...that's hilarious...about as funny as watching two buildings go down like tetris...

      August 17, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Pete

    Let the islamic world deal with this. They have all the oil money, what about the saudis?

    August 17, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jetscreamer

    Pakistan's new national anthem is now officially " Singing in the Rain."

    August 17, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Dirty Paki

      August 17, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Curt

    The image of those guys standing in line outside that doorway in very clean clothes and very white (hats??) doesn't exactly remind me of anyone suffering too badly. Or are they just politicians or taliban thieves stealing from those who really need it?

    August 17, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joe

    The religious arguments are pointless here. People here in the United States should focus on ways to aid these poor people. Obviously here in the United States, there is a common hatred against these people, but by showing that we support aiding them in times of desperation may change their perspectives ...

    I might be hopeful for peace... or maybe I'm just crazy?

    August 17, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jetscreamer

    Actual soundbite from a Pak: " Death to America !, Death to Jews !, Allahlalalalalala...glub...glub...glub...glub.

    August 17, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jetscreamer

    This flood is a blessing, because now the Paks are too busy drowning and not enough time to build I.E.D.

    August 17, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sonny

    lemme jus stand up for Christiana... man.. i agree with u so much but its like really sad all the people who dont know Jesus and his love for us and what he sacrificed for us.. people he took ur sins away by being crucified! he loves u and he is reallly true and your gonna regret not knowing him one day cause his word is true and it will happen. A long time ago Christ died for us and he took away our sins only if you accept him into your heart and life please do cause seriously if you dont at judgement day your going to hell its all said in the Bible just take a look at it GOD LOVES YOU!! <3<3<3<3

    August 17, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. dgal878

    For years we've been told that Bin Laden is more than likely being hidden in Pakistan. Now they want our help. Give us Bin Laden............................................

    August 17, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rajesh

    Me, as an indian feel no sympathy for these people. They laughed during every terrorist attack on india which they planned and now the joke is on them. They deserve no aid.

    August 17, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • proud paki

      we are just being blamed by d racist indians christians n jews after theyve dirtied our name with all bad happening in the world...HEY IF muslims WERE the actual terrorists and laughed while others die ...islam wudve not been the fastest spreading religion.... muslims are d one whor been killed like carrots evrywhere in the many christians hindus or jews died in the past few years in the US stupid good-for-nothing-but-for-themselves wars !!

      August 18, 2010 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
  14. Noah

    Where are the Ummah leaders (Saudis) and the "all-weather", "taller than mountain-deeper than ocean", Chinese fliends in this need of hour? Can't spare chump change for the Pakistanis? From what I read, China offered only $1 million and the Saudis could only muster a few thousand tents and blankets. All-weather friends indeed.
    OTOH "Existential threat" India is offering $5million and yet these beggars have the audacity to refuse it.

    August 17, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. J

    As always, ere comes the USA with aid! I wonder how long it will take for us to be considered "the great satan" once again after the floodwaters recede?

    August 17, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
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