Submitted by Zack Taylor
Girlagan, Pakistan: Nadeem is a fairly typical Pakistani boy. His family is among about 200 that live in the village of Girlagan on the banks of the Swat River, not far from the once-famous tourist destination of Bahrain in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Nadeem and his four brothers and three younger sisters all attend public government schools in Girlagan. A student in Class Six, Nadeem enjoys his studies and loves to play cricket.
Nadeem’s father is unemployed, but his eldest brother supports the family with income from a small shop in faraway Quetta city. Unable to afford a brick and steel structure, they lived in a small two roomed mud house reinforced with wooden beams.
On July 28, Nadeem’s life became no longer typical. Torrential monsoon rains of unprecedented volume caused a tremendous flash flood that spread death and destruction as it ripped its way down the picturesque valley, putting a direct hit on the hapless residents of Girlagan.
“Water started entering my home in the afternoon,” Nadeem recalled. “People were saying that we should leave since the river would destroy everything in its path.”
In the next few hours, Nadeem’s family gathered what valuables they could and ran up a hill to a neighbor’s house. At midnight, the swollen river roared into Girlagan and destroyed the entire street where Nadeem lived.
Since then, the family has lived with their generous neighbor, barely making ends meet. The river wiped out the road out of the valley, isolating the family from the contributions to the family by Nadeem’s older brother in Quetta. They quickly spent their meager savings on food – prices of which almost immediately shot up exponentially – at bazaar in nearby Bahrain city.
“My mother bundled up our clothes but we lost all our household items,” Nadeem said. “Because I had to look after my younger brothers and sisters, I was only able to grab my schoolbag. My entire collection of storybooks and cricket bats washed away in the flood.”
Two days after the house was destroyed, local officials came to Girlagan and asked them several questions, Nadeem’s father said. They promised to deliver emergency aid through helicopters, yet three weeks later, none been provided.
A few days later, a team from a humanitarian organization funded by the United States through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), conducted a damage assessment in Girlagan and selected Nadeem’s family among hundreds of others to receive a tent with bamboo supports and a shelter kit for setting up temporary housing.
“The day before yesterday, I met the team leaders and answered all their questions,” Nadeem’s father said. “Still, I was ambivalent about their promise to provide temporary housing material. I was very surprised the next morning when it arrived. Thank god we have our own temporary house now”
In addition to the shelter kit, the USAID-supported organization also provided the family a small amount in cash to assist them in transport of the materials.
“This is the first step in rebuilding our lives as before,” Nadeem said.