Bilhuda Ibrahim and her family. Credit: Mubashar Hasan/Oxfam
Bilhuda Ibrahim's children are already getting sick

Pakistan floods: One family's fight for survival

“We can rebuild our home but it will take time.”
Bilhuda Ibrahim

Bilhuda Ibrahim and her family are living crammed into a single tent in an overcrowded camp with four thousand other flood survivors.

Four weeks after they were forced from their home by the rising waters, she can still see no end in sight to their ordeal.

"I don't know when we will be able to go home," says Bilhuda, 35, a mother of six from Mardan in Pakistan's north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

"We have lost everything. Our house is ruined, our livestock are dead, and we only have the clothes we were wearing when we left the house and what people have given us since we reached the camp."

She knows they are among the lucky ones. Since the Ibrahims arrived at the camp in the town of Nowshera on 4 August, they have had a tent for shelter and access to clean water and food. But she's desperately worried about what the future holds for her family.

Diseases are spreading

The children – aged between one and 18 – are already getting sick. Diarrhea spreads quickly through the camps where people are packed in side by side. One of her daughters displays an infected mosquito bite. Another has an eye infection. All minor illnesses in normal circumstances – but since 29 July, nothing has been normal for the Ibrahims.

"Before the floods came, life was hard but good," says Bilhuda. "We had our own home. My husband worked as a watchman for a local company and we had some livestock that gave us some extra money.

"Then the rains started and the river began rising. We had never seen anything like it. We got up for prayers at 5am and the water level was higher than we'd ever seen it before. Then it started coming into the house. By 12pm, we knew we had to leave.

"Now even the office where my husband worked was washed away so he has lost his job. There is nothing we can do but stay in the camp and wait. We are thankful for help but it is very hot here all the time. We have tea and bread in the morning and curry in the evening. But at home, we all ate three times a day and we had tea 24 hours a day! At night, we only have two camp beds and some plastic mats for the eight of us."

Worried about the winter

The Ibrahims' story is typical of millions of flood victims in Pakistan. Some are living in government-run camps while others have pitched tents or found shelter wherever they can. Others are simply living by the roadside.

Bilhuda says: "We can rebuild our home but it will take time. There's no water or electricity and all the rooms are filled with mud. Every day, we go to clean and to make sure no-one has taken whatever has been left.

"I am scared about the winter. We think it will take two or three months at least to make our house so we can live in it again. We need to go home before winter comes. We have no winter clothing or bedding. What would we do if we have to live in a tent? We need to be back in our home."

Neva Khan, Oxfam's Country Director in Pakistan, said: "These people don't want handouts. They want to return to their villages, rebuild their homes and recreate their lives. Oxfam is among the agencies working to provide them not just with emergency short-term help but with the resources they will need over the long-term. But in order to do this, we need much more help from donors and the public."

Read more

Donate to Oxfam's Pakistan flood appeal

What Oxfam is doing in Pakistan

Pakistan floods: The situation and Oxfam's emergency response