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MSF rescues thousands trapped
Following on from the story we published three days ago, James Kambaki, MSF's Project Co-ordinator in BAluchsitan, describes the return trip to Khabula to rescue a group of people stranded on a narrow strip of land, and explains how the humanitarian crisis caused by the floods is increasing.
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‘We managed to get back to Khabula a few days ago to help thousands of people stuck on a small strip of land surrounded by flood water. Using sand and other material we’d been able to fill in a small section of the road temporarily so we could get across. It was too unstable to get the trucks across it, but we did manage to get through with a few 4x4s.
The people were so happy to see us. Many of them had been stranded here for over a week with little food or shelter. We felt a lot of relief as well as we were concerned about how we were going to get to them. The village dispenser, who is a sort of local medical practitioner and pharmacist, told me that they had no idea that the water was coming, which is why they ended up here. ‘We woke up at 3 o’clock in the morning and the water was already all around us,’ he said. Everybody in the village then made their way to the only dry place they could find, which was this small strip of land. Some of them managed to bring some wheat with them, but most of them brought very little. Standing there you could see a partially submerged school and mosque along with the other buildings in the village. It was complete devastation.
As soon as we arrived we organised a distribution of hygiene kits and cooking kits and began to set up a mobile clinic. In other places we’ve been there has been quite a lot of anger and chaos when we start to distribute because the people are so desperate, but here the atmosphere was calm and the distribution went well. We managed to get material to about 500 families and the people were very responsive. It was encouraging to see a lot of women coming out to take kits and material for their families.
We had also been very concerned about the lack of clean drinking water, as the canals they were taking water from had been contaminated. At the mobile clinic we began a chlorine distribution and gave a series of talks and demonstrations to the people about how to use the chlorine to purify their water. We’re hoping they will now drink the chlorinated water, but we are going to have to go back and see how widely the chlorine is being used.
We had two doctors with us and our medical co-ordinator was there as well. At the clinic they were mostly treating skin conditions caused by the water and the heat, along with a few cases of diarrhoea and respiratory-tract infections. It is a strange situation. The water is still rising here and in other places where that has happened the people are very eager to leave the area. But here the people don’t want to leave as they really have nowhere else to go. In the surrounding areas the roads are completely full of people on the move, trying to find dry land and shelter from the sun wherever they can. We think there are about 15,000 people currently on the move. Many of these people have lost everything and they don’t know when they are going to get back to their homes. The humanitarian crisis is increasing, not reducing.