photo by Marco Bottelli www.marcobottelli.com
Today the distribution has been much more substantial and has required a massive work of preparation, coordination and supervision. We have targeted 1,000 families
, about 7,000 people
from Khesghi Payan
(Upper Khesghi) and Khesghi Bala
(Lower Khesghi), which is one of the most vulnerable villages in the Nowshera district according to the local authorities. Around 5.000 buildings in the area have been swamped by the water for many days
, forcing their inhabitants to take refuge in tents or in houses of the nearby communities.
We will give them a kit of primary hygienic articles
(soap, towels, detergents, the local equivalent of sanitary towels for women and further personal hygiene products), as we had arranged with the communities and the local authorities. Most of all, they need the salt supplements
and water purification tablets
, together with the informative comics on their proper use for the less educated, who are the majority of the population. At the last minute they also asked to add combs to the kit
, especially men, and this made me smile when I thought about my messy hair during these days and the thin border between vanity and dignity which gets blurred in this culture.
The Cesvi kit is combined with the water container
and the two blankets
given by the International Organization for Migration
(IOM) together with further essential humanitarian aids given to us by various organizations.
During the last days our local staff has been occupied in obtaining the lists of beneficiaries and goods by the communities and local authorities, in forming the beneficiaries groups, in informing the village leaders on the proper use of the kits and in organizing the distribution points and the suppliers transport. With us there is also the staff of a German NGO called Welthungerhilfe
, which is our partner in the Alliance2015
network, and a German television crew who are transmitting the pictures and sensations of this human disaster which has been so far neglected by the international media services.
At 07.00 am two off-road vehicles and a truck are parked in front of our base in Islamabad. In around two hours we reach the local authorities offices, as we often do. The officer I meet warns me about the ongoing demonstration by some communities which block the road to our destination. People are exhausted, there are still too many unfulfilled primary needs. I think that fortunately our trucks and our local staff left before dawn while Hussein tells me on the mobile phone that our first distribution point has already opened. We have settled up 6 of them
At about 11.30 am we see a blue open truck with 5 soldiers on, ready to let us leave towards our distribution points. The road is now free from the demonstration but there is a jam caused by the traffic block that lasted for two hours. On the road you can see a river of vehicles full of people, small animals, boxes and suitcases. Hussein keeps me updated on the activity of the distribution points, which have in the meantime been opened.
It is almost midday when we reach the village of Khesghi. The scenes I see from the truck windows look already familiar to me, unfortunately. On the side streets there are house walls crumbled in water pools, debris, garbage, ruins, some tents, clusters of building materials that people are trying to save
. The usual colorful kites are not flying but they lay piled up in the mud, opposite a small torn off shop. Off the houses there are a few stones neatly surfacing the water where there used to be a cemetery. As we go on, the road narrows and gets bumpy and dusty with walls of mud 20 cm high on the sides. Where there used to be fields now there seems to be the bed of a partially retreated river. A strong smell of animal decomposition makes me think about the 450.000 cases of medical requests by the Pakistan population for skin diseases, severe diarrhoea and infections of the respiratory tract
Finally we get to the first distribution point. A small crowd opens up for us towards the inner court where there are the registration tables. A long barrier composed of wooden and straw beds together with police agents separates the crowd waiting to receive the goods from the one that has already received them. Our kits are piled up in two small store rooms in the back, together with the buckets and the blankets, and are intermittently carried away by those who left their fingerprint and the numbered paperslip for our lists.
Everything goes on quite regularly amid the noise and the people talking in the background, interrupted only by a muezzin singing the end of the morning.
The crowd is tense but this is understandable, nonetheless they always show us respect
. I make sure that every hygienic kit box contains its instructions while “our” women mix with Pakistan women, Hussein tells the journalists what is happening and our local staff guides the photo reporters doing their job: “Do not take pictures of women, please”.
We do the last checks, the last phone calls and get the updates about the other distribution points before getting ready to leave.
“Can you drive?” I ask our green eyed driver, Khan. It’s Ramadan, they hardly sleep, they hardly eat, but they work hard.