Pakistan floods bring further pain to a life marked by loss

News Stories, 11 October 2011

© UNHCR/S.Phelps
Eighty-year-old Imya Kolhu stands by her UNHCR tent in a relief camp for flood-affected communities in the Sanghar district of Sindh province.

SANGHAR, Pakistan, October 11 (UNHCR) Imya Kolhu's life had already been touched by tragedy before her home was inundated. The floods which struck last month collapsed her house, fatally injuring her grandson and snatching away what little hope she had for the future.

A member of Pakistan's minority Hindu community, Imya now lives in a UNHCR tent in a relief settlement in the Sanghar district of Sindh province. "The day the floods struck was doomsday," she recalled. "I saw water rising to chest height. Everyone was on the run."

As the walls and roof of their mud home began to crumble, the family attempted to flee to higher ground. Her grandson, eight-year-old Ramesh, was struck by a falling door frame and later died of his injuries.

"The waters snatched everything I had my grandson, my home, my possessions," Imya said, tearfully.

She and her elder grandson Khamisu, 14, spent the initial days after the tragedy living under the open sky without food and drink before walking 25 kilometres to the tent village at Sanghar.

Imya, who was widowed several years ago, had been caring for Ramesh and Khamisu since her son their father succumbed to illness.

For now Khamisu is her only hope. He used to supplement the family income by working in the cotton fields. The destruction of crops in the floods has left the family with little source of survival. "The water will take months to recede and we don't have anything to eat," Khamisu said.

Imya misses her village but will wait for the waters to recede before returning. Despite, or because of, the pain she has endured, she says she "has a strong emotional attachment" to the area.

The UN refugee agency has provided tents, relief kits and plastic sheets to 60 vulnerable Hindu families in the village of Zareen Khan, but people here still lack many basic services.

In southern Sindh, UNHCR has so far delivered 8,000 tents and 7,000 kits containing jerry cans, blankets, quilts, kitchen sets and sleeping mats as well as 12,000 plastic sheets to be used for basic shelter.

The agency has committed to supplying 70,000 tents and 70,000 emergency aid kits containing household items as well as other relief items to flood victims in Sindh.

"Ramesh used to call me mother," Imya recounted. "At night he would sleep beside me. Now, I sleep alone."

By Qaiser Khan Afridi in Sanghar, Pakistan