Pir Sabbaq: not washed away

I am a member of the Labor Relief Committee in Lahore and visited some of the areas affected by the floods. I would like to share with you theses portraits I wrote after interviewing some of the volunteers of the campaign in Pir Sabbaq, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. I was really impressed by their commitment and the amazing work they have been doing. Even while distributing first necessity goods in the very beginning, they also started a damage assessment survey that now records more than 900 families, noting how badly they were affected and w

hat their needs are. This has enabled them to deliver the aid in a very systematic manner, prioritizing the more needy ones. Two international organizations are now following their advice in their work and these collaborations have led to the development of relief as well as rehabilitation projects.

To the families whose house are completely destroyed, they are providing tool kits that are designed to help them clear away the rubble and construct small shelters. They have also decided to open a community kitchen in the village, where food will be cooked according to the dietary requirements of children and women. Most of the volunteers have lost all they possessed but they have not lost their spirit of solidarity. They seem to believe that another world is possible, where those who are suffering from one of the worst disasters of our times should not become the victims of a system where aid is distributed in accordance with the interests of the donors but that the aid should be used

to support and empower them so that they can not only rebuild their lives but also a more just society.

Mukhiara Bibi

In her work with the LRC, Mukhiara Bibi has focused on the women, because, as she explained, given that many of them hardly leave their houses, now with their houses destroyed, they have become even more vulnerable. One of the projects of the LRC in Pir Sabbaq in which Mukhiara Bibi is involved is a community kitchen where food will be cooked for about 500 people and according to the specific dietary requirements of women and children. “I am a very good cook, I am very healthy so I can work hard for this project, I am ready to cook for 500 people!” Ready to invest herself in the relief work, Mukhiara Bibi also sees the importance of a pro-people political campaign in the region. “I want to use this community kitchen to bring the women together, organize them, tell them about their rights. We are going to organize weekly workshops on women's role in politics, we want women to stand for the next elections. We also want to use this space to have workshops on different income generating skills. I can teach embroidery, we also want to organize a beautician's course because they are no beauty

parlours in the village and according to our tradition women like to have their make-up done for weddings or other occasions. The flood has devastated our village, we are now working towards rehabilitation but we also need to start thinking ahead of that. My belief is that families will only be able to get out of the cycle of misery once their women will be able to generate an independent income.”

The Women of LRC Pir Sabbaq, Mukhiara Bibi is sitting in the middle

 Shabnam Faiz

21 years old, she is the mother of a 2 month-old baby. One of the few women who had\ the chance\ to complete her education until F.Sc., she was working as a school teacher in a private institution in the village before the school was closed after the building got destroyed by the floods. The water has taken her source of income from her, partially destroyed her house and swept away all her belongings. Her husband is a labourer, the flood has made him jobless too. “I have joined the campaign because I am from this village, therefore I know who really needs the help unlike outside donors whom I feel are not always delivering the goods to the right people. I am going to help with the community kitchen project but what I would like the most is to make use of my skills in teaching to help either children or adults.” Shabnam is going to participate in organizing and conducting different kinds of workshops with the LRC, focusing her efforts on women's empowerment.



Very active in the Labor Relief Committee, Amarullah explained to us how some organizations are using this catastrophe for their own profit. Not only are they making a business of people's misery but they are also getting a good name out of it. “A Turkish organization came to our village and brought some shelters, they have put up 300 of them until now. According to their plan, they were to be equipped with air conditioning, that was without thinking that there is almost no electricity supply now in the village [the electricity supply in Pakistan, even before the flood was not constant].” I was invited into one of the boiling hot metal shelters. Amarullah later explained to me why they were planning to hold a demonstration against the Turkish organization: “ Those shelters were made in Turkey and then imported by air. The price of only one of them is 7000 USD, this is more than 600 000 PKR! Do you have any idea what these

families could have done with that money? They could easily have built a very good house and still have enough money to restart their lives!” Shabnam Amarullah

Inside one of the Turkish shelters The emergency situation the country is facing has revealed the courage and the commitment of many, but unfortunately it has also revealed the opportunism of others who, in their contemptuous disregard for human life, do not hesitate to exploit the most vulnerable. Boat owners charging unbelievable amounts of money in order to rescue animals and goods, pharmaceutical companies finding in relief organizations a good way to get rid of their expired medicines, for “a very good price”, the list is far too long to be mentioned here... Unexpectedly, I came back from Pir Sabbaq very optimistic. I am optimistic because I have met self-reliant, very strong, committed people. They were not desperate so why should I be? They were not begging for help so we will not give them alms. The people I have met were just ready to work hard for themselves and others to get back on their feet, it is therefore our duty to support them in their efforts. Let us follow their example and support them in any way we can.




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