Flood, Slow Aid Give Rise To Frustration In Pakistan
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Pakistan has deployed medical teams to the monsoon-struck northwest of the country as fears rise of water-borne disease. Flooding has already killed more than 1,000 people there, with as many as two and a half million more forced from their homes.
NPR's Julie McCarthy traveled to the devastated district of Nowshera and reports that while the water may now be receding, the desperation is not.
JULIE McCARTHY: Doctors Without Borders are mobilizing against cholera. The United States is airlifting 50,000 meals. The Army is throwing vital supplies from helicopters. But none of that has reached this small, watery corner in Nowshera, the district hardest hit in Pakistan's worst flooding in generations.
Fazli Akbar(ph), his hair and clothes caked in mud, leads me down railroad tracks to where his house used to be beside the Kabul River. The water came suddenly, just before breakfast, says this father of eight, and before long, he says, it was five feet deep.
Mr. FAZLI AKBAR: (Speaking foreign language).
McCARTHY: We're looking at your house, and we can see that rooms and walls have just been pushed over, and there's nothing but piles of bricks covered with mud and straw. There's really nothing left of your house.
Mr. AKBAR: (Speaking foreign language).
McCARTHY: The whole house is destroyed, says Akbar. His meager belongings are piled high on a small donkey cart. I ask if any officials have been by to survey the damage. The crowd that has gathered on the train tracks behind us answers emphatically.
Unidentified Group: (Speaking foreign language).
McCARTHY: We haven't seen even a single bottle of water, Akbar says, as his neighbors condemn the government's sluggish response. In this strategic part of Pakistan, this is not the first time governance has critically failed at a critical time.
A few years ago, disillusionment with the government helped the Taliban insurgency lay down roots not far from here in the Swat Valley. The flooding has touched a similar nerve.
Mr. HAFEEZ REHMAN(ph): (Speaking foreign language).
McCARTHY: They are all thieves, 28 year old Hafeez Rehman says of the government. They should quit. Major Basuir Khattak represents Nowshera in the provincial assembly. He says the people have been abandoned at every level of government.
Major BASUIR KHATTAK (Provincial Assembly Member, Nowshera, Pakistan): No tents have been provided so far. No water tanker has been provided so far. No shelter has been provided so far. Even the representatives of the district government, they have yet to visit the area.
McCARTHY: Repair trucks re-opened most of the Grand Trunk Road today. But the information minister of the province said the area has been pushed back fifty years.
Julie McCarthy, NPR News in flooded northwest Pakistan.