28 October 2011

Pervwen’s Story: Why Pakistan’s Flood-Affected Mothers Need Help

  1. Pervwen and her brother-in-law Munri visit World Vision’s mobile health clinic in flood-devastated Sindh Province, Pakistan.
  2. Pregnant and sick with fever, Pervwen is examined by a health worker at the clinic.

Pervwen lives deep in the heart of Pakistan’s most southern province, Sindh. Six weeks ago her home was flooded by relentless monsoon rains. Almost 600,000 properties in the region have been completely destroyed.

Like so many others, Pervwen and her husband Zammer are tenant farmers, eking out a living on someone else’s land. They are dependent on the success of cotton, rice, wheat and sugar cane crops. But the flooding has decimated the cotton crops which were soon to be harvested and the wheat crop is not due to be planted for another month. This has forced Zammer to leave home and seek work as a day labourer in a neighbouring district.

Pervwen’s current position is all that more precarious given she has an 18-month-old baby to care for and is eight-and-a-half months pregnant. Like all pregnant women she needs regular, nutritious meals but with her husband’s profit share from the cotton crop washed down the Indus River and his salary as a labourer far from guaranteed, the family’s food stocks have vanished and Pervwen’s meals are shrinking. Food security is perilous. To compound matters, clean water is dangerously scarce. The World Health Organisation says 96% of Sindh’s water sources are now contaminated. The floods have washed dead animals, human, commercial and agricultural waste into much of it.

Aid agencies are scrambling to deal with the water shortage and to plug the sudden hunger gap which has sprung up between crop harvests. World Vision has begun distributing food and water purification tablets to 10,000 families.
Help hasn’t come soon enough for Pervwen though. She has contracted a fever and is suffering obstetric complications. Despite that, she has managed to walk two kilometres to World Vision’s mobile health clinic. Pervwen is fearful her health is adversely affecting her baby; it undoubtedly is. After being examined by a female health worker, she is referred to a local hospital for a more thorough check.

There are thousands of women just like Pervwen in Pakistan. Perversely, she may be one of the lucky ones. Many others don’t have a health provider nearby or the promise of food aid and clean water.

In a tragic reflection of our global media driven lives, this year’s flooding has not attracted the attention it deserves, despite the staggering scale of destructio, and hence the funding it needs. The United Nations has received just 15% of its financial target to combat this emergency. World Vision relies on that funding and that of its supporters in the West to provide life-saving food and health programmes. Pakistan’s plight has been overshadowed by coverage of the famine and food crisis in East Africa and worse, our obsession with everything trivial in our own developed countries.