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. Mike

    I see discrimination more than polite comments here. Well we all can have differences but this can happen to anyone. Pakistan will emerge oneday if USA leave that area for good. UsA is there for its own purpose and destroyed this country and gave them bad name. Floods are natural disastor and usa is a worst disastor than floods or earthquakes.

    August 17, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • proud paki

      i totally agree wid u ...the wrst thing that ever happened to pakistan is the US and its supported dictator leaderships !! im glad to c sum1 actually understanding us !!

      August 18, 2010 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
  2. Sophia


    August 17, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. reminder

    You guys are so heartless. Don't you realize that the victims of this flood are helpless to their country's corruption? They need to be cared for, not ridiculed for residing in Pakistan.

    August 17, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Chris

    Last I checked, this was the 21st Century. Why are people still living in huts made of mud and clay.? The U.S. needs to cut the ambilical cord and instead teach these people to be a bit more independent and resourceful. Maybe a little population control wouldn't be such a bad idea either. Once this crisis is over, another event will happen cause the people and their government hadn't learned from previous disasters and the U.S. will be there again saying "oh it's ok that you're stupid, here's more money".

    August 17, 2010 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • dexter89

      Just like the US are as stupid to let their own govt set up and play out the whole 9/11 attacks...wake up WWWWW

      August 17, 2010 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Vj

    Pakistanis are unable to use AID productively and waste it all on fancy weapons mostly to fight Taliban mythical Navy and Air Force and also to uy nukes and missiles from North Korea and China. Only thing that'll help the nation of Pakistan and ALL other nations is AIDS to all Pakistanis.
    I say, we should try to provide AIDS to every Pakistani. No Pakistani=No problem

    August 17, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mike

    It took few years for HITLER to mobilize the suffering german population to run behind his ideology(Reich) becoz of the post WWI sufferings by western world, average pakistan(poor people) is losing hope and extremists groups trying to find a way to mobilize people and waiting for a tragedy to occur. whenever 20% of poor people are in dire need, a leader can easily use them to start a movement and grab the wealth and control from the wealthy.

    Pakistan has a potential of becoming full blown islamic nation run by extremists . We have to promote that, otherwise these eight children family country would keep on begging every now and then. Let it become extremist country and we can take them as a whole.

    GOD Bless the world.

    August 17, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • dexter89

      Take them as a whole huh...nice one idiot! Racist bum.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. sophia

    The aid given from Us majorly goes to support the pakistan military which is an original brat which US pampered to defeat USSR during those heday days.That army today is so inflated that it eats 50 % of the country's budget because US keeps supporting military for not giving aid to pakistan really wouldn't matter in the long run as all these ppl would rive out US forces out of Afghanistan by blowing up themselves.Despair is contagious.

    August 17, 2010 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Robert

    What did Pakistan do with the $620m sent recently? Given away to Al-Qaeda? I have personally seen Pakis celebration 9/11 and other terrorist incidents, mostly coordinated by their own army and jehadis. No sympathy for them.

    August 17, 2010 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • dexter89

      Actually coordinated by the US govt and your great President George DoubleUUUUUU

      August 17, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Chucky

    why should a country that boasts 5th largest standing army, a modern airforce with F16, Mirages and worlds 6th nuclear power be comapring itself to Haiti while begging for funds. Pakistanis need to reduce spending on huge corrupt military , start population control, stop promoting terrorism and halt seling nukes to N Korea and Libiya. They are all time beggars who cannot stand on their feet and always penchant at making trouble

    August 17, 2010 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Chucky

    Why should pakistanis be asking US for help when it ws pakistani Omar Saeed who funded the 9/11 attack on our soil and these same people who are now drowning were celebrating with AK47's proclaiming jihad.

    August 17, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Chucky

    Pakistanis fund terror acts all over world all terror attacks have pakistani fingerprint be it 9/11, London, Madrid, Mumbai, Delhi, Bali when they have so much money to train and finance terrorists why are they begging now. Not a penny from my tax money should be sent there. I dont want blood of our boys serving in Afghanistan on my hands. That money will be used to plan the next terror attack

    August 17, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. YNG4crusade

    Freedom make you blind !!!! Ground zero mosque will be built with your billions !!! A mosque for each state !!!

    August 17, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. shiv

    The Indian border is literally parallel to and about 50 miles from the flood affected areas – heck its the Indus river that's flooding – the damn subcontinent gets its name from that river. India is best placed to help. While the Indian government has offered $5 million – no Indian really wants to help because all that India gets from Pakistan is terrorism and extreme hostility. And guess what – Pakistan does not want aid from India because relations are "sensitive".

    Heck go ahead – all you guys 10,000 miles away can go ahead and help. Pakistan will welcome aid from you. Just be sure to pack one AK 47 for every 20 ready to eat meals you send.

    August 17, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. AZMateo

    Support terrorism and fear, God will remind you not to. They are getting what the deserve. Suffer, biaaaatches.

    August 17, 2010 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. kuffar


    August 17, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
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