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For Many Pakistanis, Flood Relief Still Not Arriving Quickly Enough

September 29, 2010 at 5:19 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: It’s been two months since floodwaters devastated Pakistan, killing more than 1,500, and leaving as many as six million homeless.

Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News has covered the disaster from the start. In tonight’s report, he revisits a town on the Swat River, where many are still in desperate need of help.

JONATHAN MILLER: Northwest Pakistan’s drying out now, post-deluge, but parts of it look like a war zone. Tens of thousands have been uprooted. We have come back to see what difference the hundreds of millions of pounds pledged in flood aid has made to their lives.

Shortly after the flood hit, we went to Chek Hisara, a village leveled by the raging Swat River — 5,000 people were perched in a forlorn, makeshift encampment on some high ground, hungry and desperate.

No one, they told me, had come to their rescue. The rain may have stopped now, but the camp looked just as it did when we had left. They had found some more U.N. tents, but the U.N. hasn’t actually been here, and neither, they insisted, had anyone else, apart from an Islamist charity, which had provided some food for a while.

The man in the green here lost his wife in the flood. She was swept away, and he never even found her body. But all of these people here have suffered terribly. They have all lost their homes, and they’re living in this really grim tented encampment. The trouble is that, in the six weeks that have elapsed since our last visit here, nothing has changed at all. And these people have had nothing from anyone.

The lady beside me runs a charity for women. She’s unimpressed with her government’s aid efforts.

KHOSHNUMA QADAR, Muslim Women’s Welfare Society (through translator): The problem is, the international community doesn’t trust the Pakistani government, and the Pakistani government doesn’t trust international charities. So, that’s why these people are suffering. They need to cooperate with each other. There is just too much talking. No one is actually helping.

JONATHAN MILLER: This is one of the worst-affected areas in Pakistan, but these people still have no safe water, no food, no shelter, no medicine. Something has gone very wrong.

On Sunday the 8th of August, we had turned off the main road through Charsadda and entered a district called Hasinabad.

My name’s Johnny.

SALIM KHAN, Pakistan: Salim Khan.

JONATHAN MILLER: Salim Khan. Back then, Salim Khan told me no government officials or relief workers had been there since the flood. With his son Anwar, he had shown me his wrecked house.

At least you don’t squelch your way down the alleyway now. Salim says he’s rented a nearby house for his family, the site of his old one abandoned. Salim has no money to rebuild and no job.

Outside the mosque, I meet Salim’s son, Anwar. He told me two British charities had provided some aid here. Down the road, there’s Mazhar Mahmoud. He said an Islamist charity had been here too. And I recognized these two, Afsheen and Ikrah, daughters of Fazal the grocer. I go in and say hello.

This was the state of Fazal’s house last time we had come. The family were camped on the roof. They had had a dramatic escape from the torrent which had crashed through Hasinabad and were thankful just to be alive. Fazal spent all his money rebuilding the wall around his courtyard. The tent on the roof sits there, like a bad memory.

FAZAL ELHI, grocer (through translator): We lost so much. We don’t even have the basics. It’s been a terrible time, but the lesson was that almighty Allah promised to provide, and he has.

JAMILLAH ELHI, Pakistan (through translator): The school wants the girls to go back, but the problem is, we don’t have the money to even buy them new books and bags.

JONATHAN MILLER: I asked nine-year-old Afsheen if she missed school. She said, “Terribly,” and then she just sort of crumpled. Her dad said she misses school so much, she cries whenever he mentions the word.

A lot of people I have met here seem close to the edge, but they will do as they have always done, and will manage to hold it together. Pakistan’s poor have long known not to expect much from anyone.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The United Nations has appealed for more than $2 billion of flood aid for Pakistan, but has received only $620 million so far from member nations.