Pakistan floods – one year later: A mother's worry

Published: 1 August 2011 12:00 CET

By Rabia Ajaib in Pakistan

As Shahida is rocked to sleep in the comfort of her mother’s lap, she knows nothing of the worries that are racing through Kulsoom Bibi’s mind. A widow with four children, her house was destroyed during the 2010 monsoon floods. It’s a daily struggle to find enough food to feed her family. She ekes out a living as best she can, bringing home 9,000 rupees (88 Swiss francs) every month. “I have been looking after the crops and livestock of the landlords in the area,” says Kulsoom. “I also make bed sheets on order and earn a little from that.”

But with the price of staples like wheat, sugar, eggs and poultry skyrocketing after the floods, it is not enough to meet the basic needs of her family, let alone afford her the opportunity to rebuild her home. A 20 kilogram bag of flour soared to 600 rupees (6 Swiss francs); one kilogram of sugar reached 75 rupees (less than 1 Swiss franc).

When the Red Cross Red Crescent arrived in Kulsoom’s community in Sindh province, neighbours quickly identified her family as one of the most vulnerable. “I lost my house, the only property I had, in the floods,” says Kulsoom. “Since then, I have been living with my brother, but his house is too small to accommodate all of us.”

Following through on the recommendations of villagers, the local Red Crescent Society provided Kulsoom and her family with a cash grant to build a new home. “We very much want to have the owners involved, which is why we chose to distribute cash grants as opposed to just building a house for them,” explains Andrea Lorenzetti, shelter coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Pakistan. “Cash is a flexible system that allows the home owner to decide what size of house they want, or what materials they want to use. We distribute the cash in three instalments and monitor progress. The home owner then has to meet certain milestones in order to receive the second and third instalments.”

As she rocks her young daughter to sleep in their new home, Kulsoom whispers: “I am very glad that I have my own shelter. If the floods come this year I am safe because of the structure of the house. My children are happy here. I can lead my life the way I want.”

Having a new home means Kulsoom has one less thing to worry about. Even though she will still struggle to find a way to feed her children tomorrow, for tonight they can sleep soundly under the sturdy roof of their new home.

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