Pakistan flood victims still struggling a year on: Red Cross
Around 12 million Pakistanis are still trying to rebuild their lives a year after floods devastated the country, according to a global humanitarian group.
The 2010 floods saw around a fifth of the country under water with the disaster killing at least 2,000 people, and directly affecting another 20 million.
Caroline Austin, from the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies, has been in Pakistan since shortly after the disaster, managing communication with flood victims via SMS, print, radio and television.
She says malnutrition and food security remains a daily threat to people's survival there.
Presenter: Bill Bainbridge
Speaker: Caroline Austin, from the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies, in Islamabad
AUSTIN: So the flood survivors still face a very uncertain future. Many are still living in makeshift shelters without any form of sustainable livelihood, and malnutrition and food security are continuing threats to their survival. In terms of the Red Cross response we've been providing people with seeds and technical assistance and providing communities with cash to rebuild some of these shelters.
BAINBRIDGE: And how many people would you say are still affected by the floods this far on?
AUSTIN: Initially as people would know there was approximately 20-million people affected. So about the size of the UK, and we're looking at something like 12-million people still affected currently a year on.
BAINBRIDGE: And are those 12-million people are they in need still of emergency relief?
AUSTIN: No Red Cross/Red Crescent did two food distributions in the beginning of the flood; food parcels and essentials that people needed. In terms of we're now moving into the recovery stage, so we're looking at providing people with training to help them get back on their feet after the floods, and then also to rebuild their shelters.
BAINBRIDGE: One of the descriptions at the time of the floods, one of the descriptions that was used quite a bit by some of the aid agencies was that it was like a slow motion tsunami and the comparisons were made with the Boxing Day tsunami, which you worked on as well, you worked on the aftermath of that. How would you compare those two experiences?
AUSTIN: I mean I certainly would agree it was like a slow motion tsunami. I talked to people, particularly in the north, about the rising floodwaters, and they were saying, particularly in my program, it was just rising and rising and there was no stopping it. As some of the people that flew over the actual devastation, you could see it moving out across the country in this quite slow crawl, it was quite shocking. In terms of the devastation in comparison to that disaster, I mean this is one of the biggest disasters Pakistan's ever faced, and people are still struggling. Only recently waters in the province of Sindh have receded, so you're looking at a very, very long process of people getting back on their feet.
BAINBRIDGE: And part of that process, at least from the work you're doing, is to get people using talkback radio, other types of communication in order to rebuild their lives. Can you tell us how that works?
AUSTIN: Yes, providing people information in disasters can be as valuable as food, water or shelter. So in my program particularly we provide people with lifesaving information about where they can receive their relief goods for example, or access their cash grants. I was just thinking about a family telling me a story, when the floods were rising in the north the electricity obviously went out as their house went under and they had their radio there held up over the waters listening to those information bulletins. So it's a very, very important program to provide people with that information.
BAINBRIDGE: And is there also an element of simply recovery through talking about these things, through opening up the discussion, is that what the talkback radio feature does to people, are they able to share their stories and come to understand their experience better because of it?
AUSTIN: There's definitely an element of that. I mean in our talkback radio, which is run primarily through our volunteer teams, we have experts on hand to answer questions immediately the flood survivors have, so they may be health, or shelter questions, so people can call in during that hour every week and pose those questions to our experts.
BAINBRIDGE: What kind of stories do you get from these callers? What kind of trauma have people been through?
AUSTIN: We hear a variety of stories. I mean the really lovely ones particularly come from women here who are very resilient and hard working and they appreciate I guess the information that we're providing about how to recover, whether that be in the health sphere, about nutrition or a balanced diet or how to access the cash grants that we're currently deploying across the country.
BAINBRIDGE: Just finally 12 months on, what's the greatest need for the survivors of this flood?
AUSTIN: I mean certainly from my perspective it's about providing information so people can recover from this disaster. The number one need that we're hearing through our talkback and through different mechanisms, would have to be that people want to get back on their feet and start earning money, start earning a livelihood. So when we talk about flood survivors, they're not sitting back, they want to rebuild their homes, they want to earn a sustainable livelihood. So it's nice to hear.