Driving deeper into Sindh province, the roads become narrow strips of land flanked by flood water. Crops that were almost ready for harvest now slowly rot in the stagnant water. The remains of ruined houses can be seen protruding above the surface. Our journey north to a Red Cross water treatment plant is gradually slowed by the badly damaged roads, but it is the ad-hoc camp that brings us to a halt. Rough shelters made of the ubiquitous blue tarpaulins, propped up by bamboo and sticks, line each side of the dirt track. Entire families live under the sheets, with farm animals tethered nearby or wandering among the shelters. The shelters are furnished with random possessions saved from destroyed homes – beds, tables, electric fans, a freezer.
In one shelter, Lila sits behind her sewing machine. She dragged the machine from her home, and carried it through flood water as she led her 10 children to high ground. In the primitive conditions of the roadside camp, she’s been working to make some money to feed her family. Relief has only just started to arrive in the form of Red Cross food parcels. Next door, Ibrahim and his wife Hameeda sit on two chairs he managed to save from his house. Nothing else survived, he says, pointing out to some bricks protruding from the water. The ruins of his house sits a short swim away, a daily reminder of what he’s lost.
Hundreds of these spontaneous camps sit throughout the flood affected area – no one is quite sure how many people they contain. But without proper sanitation facilities and limited or no clean drinking water, more support needs to arrive soon before illness and disease takes hold.
By Joe Cropp