Residents of Pakistan’s Balochistan Province say flooding in August followed by an earthquake in September have been too much to bear, coming as they did just a few years after a devastating cyclone.
Farid Baloch and his family say they have lived essentially without shelter since 2007.
That was when Cyclone Yemin triggered torrential rains across coastal areas of Pakistan, including Kech District in Balochistan, where Baloch and his extended family of eight live. It caused widespread damage, including to housing structures. One assessment at the time noted that almost all the private housing in parts of Kech had been washed away.
“My home was a good one. We had three rooms and the structure was made partially from brick,” Baloch told IRIN from Kech. “However, as a result of the very heavy rains, it collapsed.”
After living in a makeshift camp for three months “in miserable conditions”, he built himself a shelter in his village. “We received no compensation from any quarter, so we just used mud bricks, timber – even canvas – in bits,” he said.
Last month, when a magnitude 7.7 earthquake hit Kech and neighbouring Awaran districts, Baloch’s crude home collapsed once more.
“There is nothing left. I am living out in the open again with my elderly parents and children,” Baloch said.
The earthquake, on 24 September, was followed by another tremor, slightly milder in intensity, on 28 September. They were preceded by several other crises in the area, including flooding, which had already weakened the ability of residents to cope with shocks.
Aid workers say the government and the humanitarian community have both failed to adequately address the effect of “layers of crisis” on the local population.
“Damage to livelihoods years ago makes things much harder when a new crisis hits, adding to problems,” said Shabbir Ahmed, who is working with the charitable Edhi Foundation in Awaran. He said this factor also contributed to “anger” among people who felt they had been neglected.
But the government says it has limited options.
“The resources we have are few, and people need help,” said Jan Muhammad Buledi, spokesman for the provincial government. The security situation “complicated things”.
According to the Balochistan Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), 393 people died in Awaran and Kech as a result of the quake and 200,000 were displaced or lost property.
“There is just nothing left. In Awaran, 90 percent of the housing was destroyed by the quake,” Anwar Kazmi, spokesman for Edhi Foundation, headquartered in Karachi, told IRIN.
Security concerns had already held back relief work in the Balochistan quake zone, home to a secessionist movement. And now many of the international NGOs that had initially begun working there are pulling out. Some blame a lack of funds, while others say they received a government notification to leave the area. One NGO was told by local officials the government needed to focus on providing relief to those in need, not security to NGOs.
“We have basically been left on our own,” said Rashid Ahmed from Awaran town, who lost his home in the quake. He said traditional means of support had been weakened by events that took place well before the quake.
Eight districts of Balochistan were badly hit by monsoon rains in August with flash floods a main source of damage. PDMA director Ataullah Mengal said 30,000 people in the province had been made homeless by the flooding that followed the rains.
“I could for now have moved in with my brother, who lives in the Khuzdar District,” Ahmed said, “but rains earlier this year damaged his house, his lands, and the flash floods also meant he lost three heads of cattle and some of his goats… Those are huge losses for a poor farmer, and I simply do not feel able to seek his help at this time.”
Ahmed’s extended family is struggling to help both him and his brother simultaneously. He said his uncle’s family in Quetta was “trying to do what is possible”, but it was not easy to provide housing and cattle for two families in desperate need of aid. “All this happened unexpectedly, so of course there could be no planning.”
According to a 15 October bulletin by UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, residents of Balochistan lost more than 8,000 head of cattle – “a crucial source of food and income” – during the flooding.
These people require “urgent support” to help rebuild their herds, lives and livelihoods “as quickly as possible”, it said, adding that 24,000 houses were damaged or destroyed in the province, “creating huge shelter needs”.
These shelter needs were then exacerbated by the earthquake in September.
“There were rains here in August which destroyed my lands,” said Inayatullah Nazeer, a farmer based close to the town of Mand in Kech District. “When the quake hit a few weeks later, cracks appeared in my house and because of crop loss I lack the funds needed for repairs,” he said.