MSF providing material and instruction for more solid but still temporary shelter
Dusty, thin tents and shelters made of tree branches stretch off into the distance in the vast, unplanted fields of Raziq Binu village, in Pakistan’s Sindh province. Outside these makeshift shelters, children play with pieces of wood and trash. The smiling dust-covered faces distract from the children’s bare feet and lack of warm clothes. The onset of winter means that temperatures will continue to drop as low as 5 C at night. Six months ago, Raziq Binu village, three hours drive north of Karachi, was devastated by floods that washed away houses, crops, animals and livelihoods. Asma Mahreen, her husband and their six children finally made it back to their home village, after five months of moving between different camps in Sindh and Balochistan provinces. “Like most of the people in our village, our home has been washed away. We found nothing when we went back,” she says while making lunch in a cramped makeshift shelter, a few steps away from where the family keeps their cattle. “We just built this shack last week using whatever material we could find in the woods. But it is getting very cold lately and we are suffering, especially our children,” says Asma. This family is just one of many in Sindh, whose houses were swept away when the July 2010 floods wreaked havoc throughout Pakistan. As the temperature continues to drop, MSF teams race to provide up to 2,000 transitional shelters for people in and around Jamshoro and Johi districts. “My children have been complaining about the cold but we are simply helpless. We have nowhere else to go and no means to make things better. As parents, it hurts us to be helpless, to see our children suffer and not be able to give them what they need,” says Musdaq Ali, Asma’s husband, as he waits to receive the MSF shelter set. Each set contains bamboo frames, plastic sheeting, wall and roof mats, as well as insulation material. The transitional shelter is designed to last for one year, which will hopefully give floods survivors some time to rebuild their lives after their homes and livelihoods were destroyed.
In addition to providing these sets, MSF teams also show villagers how to construct their transitional homes. For the safety of the families and the durability of the shelter, it is important the shelter is put together properly. Attending the demonstration, 45-year-old Saleem Bushk ties down the last branch on the roof to one of the vertical bamboos that made up the walls and shares his story. “Even before the floods, as a casual labourer, I could barely support my wife and our eight children,” he says. “Now without a job, and not enough food to eat, all I can think of is to find a way to keep my family from starving, let alone to give them a home.” The situation is not without hope: six months after the floods, seasonal crops have started to sprout again, yet the road to recovery for flood survivors remains challenging. “Six months after the floods, too many people are without anything, not even food or a way to earn a living. The good news is that we are helping them put a roof over their heads, a place to call their own and somewhere to keep their families safe,” says Kamran Khan, a member of the MSF shelter team. As he loads the supply set onto his donkey cart, Musdaq Ali smiles and says: “I can now build a home for our family. I have asked our neighbours for help, and Inshallah, within a few days, it will be ready and my children will be warm and safe at night.” Since 1988, MSF has been providing medical assistance to Pakistani nationals and Afghan refugees suffering from the effects of armed conflicts, poor access to healthcare, and disasters in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Punjab, and Sindh provinces, as well as the Federally Administered Tribal areas and Kashmir. MSF does not accept funding from any government for its work in Pakistan, choosing instead to rely solely on private donations.