Sister Roberta Ryan brings us up-to-date on the scene in one small pocket of Pakistan which can be multiplied thousands of times e across the devastated country
“And the story continues……
Each time we visited the tent village of the original 21 displaced families we have been reaching out to over the past weeks their numbers grew – as new families set up home nearby – with nothing but a bed turned up on its end with a sheet tied to the two upper legs and pinned to the ground by heavy stones to shelter them from the scorching heat of the midday sun.
At present we are caring for 95 families – each blessed with numerous children and often including grandparents as the extended family is the norm here – all from the same tribal group and locality in Upper Sindh who are scattered in small clusters of 5 to 12 families in the open, stony, sandy desert regions on either side of the Highway to Karachi, about 20 km from Hyderabad, having lost everything during the recent devastating floods that swept the length and breadth of the country.
Thanks to our team of helpers and volunteers – tents were put up for each family, while clean drinking water and a regular supply of food provisions including fresh vegetables are given out to every family on a weekly basis. This was followed by the distribution of water barrels – to store ordinary water – for washing themselves and their clothes.
Moving on from the logistics of supplying the urgent basic necessities of life we found ourselves getting to know the families in a more personal way as frequent visits had helped them to see in us – the face of a friend.
Sr Marie Galvin with some of the young women while Sr Perlita Ponge finds an eager recipient for one of the food packages.
Little by little, we wended our way from tent to tent taking in, at a glance, the large number of children who were in need of medical attention due to a variety of skin infections, open sores, upset tummies and malnutrition. Among the women, there were the elderly burdened with the infirmities of a lifetime of unremitting hard work, while among the younger women, many were pregnant and others were nurturing with smiling faces their new born babies. Yet, we couldn’t completely share their joy as we looked at the puny, underweight little mites in their arms and realized the fragile grip they had on life.
Our project manager received a promise that a mobile clinic and a team of 15 doctors would visit the next day and everyone in the camp, not to mention ourselves, was overjoyed. But our happiness was short lived as two days went by without sign or sight of them! On the third day, we realized we had to be more pro-active and got 55 of those most in need of care seen by a Doctor at his Clinic. They were ferried in by pick-up vans as the camp is about 20 km outside Hyderabad. In the end, this all worked out for the best as x-rays and bloods tests were also taken and aided better diagnosis and treatment. One of our Sisters stayed with the group from start to finish and told us afterwards how shocked she was at the utter poverty that she saw that day revealed not only in the lack of clothes, but also in the skinny limbs and swollen tummies of so many of the children.
Another memory that stays with me as we walked the camp was of an old woman, well over eighty years of age, and who had cataracts in both eyes. She was pouring precious water from a jug over her feet which she then proceeded to dry with a dexterity and care that belied her years. Next, she unrolled her prayer mat and placed it on the desert’s rough, stony floor and began her prayer with three profound bows to God. I was deeply moved by her act of faith.
Where were they coming from and where were they going to? What was their story and what is their future? Thoughts of the evictions in Ireland in famine times loomed in our memories – who was there for them? And who will be here for those affected by the floods when in the weeks and months ahead they begin to seek ways of rebuilding their shattered lives………