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Flood-affected in Punjab gear up for Eid celebrations


Flood-affected in Punjab gear up for Eid celebrations

Muslims affected by devastating floods in Pakistan earlier this year will forget their losses for a day to celebrate the Muslim sacrificial feast of Eid al-Adha.
16 November 2010
Gaman Mai (right), seen with her sister, is looking forward to the Eid feast.

JANPUR, Pakistan, November 16 (UNHCR) - Their lives may have been disrupted by the devastating floods that swept through Pakistan earlier this year, but tens of thousands of people across Pakistan's Punjab province will be celebrating the Muslim sacrificial feast of Eid al-Adha this week.

"Of course we will celebrate Eid," said Gaman Mai in the village of Janpur, which she was forced to flee when the area was flooded in August. "We will sacrifice [a goat] and prepare a meal for all our family and neighbours on Eid," the 60-year-old added. Tens of thousands of other people in the Punjab who were displaced and lost property and livestock will also be celebrating the feast.

Eid al-Adha, which falls on Wednesday, is marked by millions of Muslims around the world. It commemorates Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his eldest son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God, who provided him with a ram to kill instead. Depending on how wealthy they are, families celebrate by sacrificing a goat, sheep, cow, bull or camel.

Gaman and her family returned to Janpur on the banks of the Sutlej River about two months ago to find their house damaged and their crops ruined. "We lost eight acres of cotton and sugarcane to the floodwaters, and our total loss amounts to about 800,000 rupees [about US$9,400]," the matriarch's son, Allahyar, told UNHCR.

They had spent the previous six weeks living on a river bank alongside 50,000 other displaced people in the Minchen Band district. Though they needed some help on their return, the family of 12, including seven grandchildren, immediately started rebuilding the community with their neighbours. UNHCR, its implementing partners and other humanitarian agencies supported these efforts by providing them with food rations, tents and other non-food items.

"We received two big plastic sheets from UNHCR and we have been sleeping under them in our courtyard since we came back from Minchan Band," Gaman said, shortly before the refugee agency distributed tents to families in Janpur for protection during the coming winter months.

"I am very happy that we now have a tent and quilts to keep warm during the winter," Gaman said, while explaining that she was not expecting to move back into the house before June next year. The family cook, eat and wash in the shell of the house, which only has a few items of furniture and is in a precarious state. "Our house has huge cracks and I am worried that the ceiling could fall onto our heads during the night," Gaman said.

The Punjabis are known for their zest for life and Gaman and her relatives are no exception. The family is already busy cultivating their land in order to harvest cotton, maize and sugarcane next season. "I am hoping that next year we will have enough money to slaughter a bull, rather than a goat, for Eid," Gaman said.

A slaughtered animal is usually divided into three parts; the best part is given to the poor, who cannot afford the sacrifice, while the rest is distributed among friends and family, who usually gather together on this special day.

For Gaman, mention of Eid lights up her weathered face. She clearly looks forward to the annual celebration, when she can share the feast of roasted goat meat with all her children and friends and try to forget about the floods, which coursed through northern and southern Pakistan, leaving 1,700 people dead and affected some 20 million.

More than 3.5 million acres of crops and thousands of cattle were destroyed by the floodwaters in the Punjab, which is named after the five rivers that flow through it, including the Sutlej. UNHCR has provided shelter and other aid to 1.4 million. Some 3.7 million people remain displaced across the country.

By Humaira Mehboob in Janpur, Pakistan