Pakistan: Oxfam works with local boat men to rescue those cut off by flood waters

Emergencies, Media Releases, News article written on the 06 Aug 2010

With more than 3 million people now affected by flooding in Pakistan, Oxfam is supporting local groups who are working around the clock to rescue families cut off by rising flood waters.

Fisherman and volunteers are working with local groups, Oxfam and the Pakistani authorities, to evacuate more than 50,000 people, using wooden fishing boats to find people in remote and cut off areas.

Fifty volunteers working in an area of Punjab, mobilised with the help of Oxfam, had their boats prepared for when the monsoon struck a week ago. The group is now using the assistance of local boat men to find people in remote and cut off areas.

Javed Iqbal works for the local organisation supported by Oxfam. He said they are still working to evacuate families who are cut off because they live in between difficult streams.

“The “Malah” are local boat men who know the zig zag of the streams and can help us navigate to remote areas in need of help. We should have reached everyone in this community by the end of tomorrow,” Mr Iqbal said.

“Those we have rescued today are facing health problems and their animals have died. People are suffering from diarrhoea and rashes on their skin. We are helping get them to camps and providing clean water and cooked food. But many are also sleeping out in the open in desperate need of shelter.”

Oxfam’s Pakistan Country Director Neva Khan said so far the rescue efforts had reached 54,000 people.

“Pretty much everyone in these areas of the country have been affected by the catastrophic floods, yet local communities are relentlessly working with Oxfam’s support to reach people stranded and in need of help,” Ms Khan said.

Oxfam is now supplying clean water to 100,000 people in four of the worst affected areas of the Khyber Paktankhwa (formerly NWFP) and Punjab Province.

Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett said it was vital that people get access to clean water quickly, to prevent the spread of disease.

“We do need Australians to continue to support our appeal for our work in Pakistan. Oxfam is appealing for $6.6 million to help people get through the immediate days and weeks and to boost recovery over the long-term,” Mr Hewett said.

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Notes to the editor: Oxfam staff are available for interview on the ground in the affected area. Photos from Pakistan are available on request.