Precious water - One year on from the Pakistan Floods
26 Jul 2011 | Blog | Pakistan | Emergency Relief
On a day in September 2010, a group of white-bearded men left their mountaintop village in Pakistan and wound their way down 5000 feet of steep, rocky slopes.
None of them were young; one used a cane. At the base of the mammoth mountain, a river had burst its banks and destroyed the only bridge leading where they needed to go.
The men waited hours to make a precarious journey across the water on a hastily-constructed rope trolley – a tiny open crate that swung and wobbled each of them over the river.
Crossing makeshift bridges and skirting landslide boulders that blocked their way, taking vehicles in places where the flood hadn’t damaged the roads too badly, the men finally reached their destination: the office of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) – Caritas Australia’s partners in Pakistan.
The men were desperate to repair their village’s flood-destroyed water system. The water system had served not just their village, but a total of five thousand people.
During torrential rains, “the pipes were washed away. Landslides also damaged some pipes,” says a village elder, Muhammad Jan.
“We’re poor. We know how precious water is.”
With almost three kilometres of the pipe line washed away, “poor people, especially women, had to go for water and carry it two or three miles,” says villager Awal Khan. People collected rainwater from their roofs, and tried to store water in cisterns.
Saving the hard-to-get water only for drinking and cooking, the villagers could not bathe or wash their clothes.
With the support of Caritas Australia, CRS brought in pipes, cement and tools. The village men contributed their labor, agreeing to haul the pipes and machinery on terrain too rough for cars to navigate.
“We carried over 60 pounds of pipes for five hours,” remembers Awal Khan. “The tops of our shoulders would get red and swollen but we really needed the water system to work. Our women and children were suffering.”
Today, the lines are restored and water flows from tapstands within easy reach of villagers’ homes.
Throughout northern Pakistan, your support for Caritas Australia has seen dozens of systems repaired, bringing clean water to over 200,000 people affected by the flood.
“Our children are clean now and our women were so happy to be able to get water in their own place, not putting a pot on their heads,” says Awal Khan.
Stooping over his cane, an elder named Haji Sawal Fakir looks on as village boys drink water from a tapstand. “We had a lot of problems after the flood,” he says. “God had mercy on us that you came here and responded to our intense need.”
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