Pakistani Women Take Up Reconstruction Challenge

People who attended the US Social Forum in Detroit this past June may have heard Bushra Khaliq, General Secretary of the Women Workers Help Line, speak on the situation of working women in Pakistan. The majority work within their homes; jobbers come around to pick up their work. So often they do not know what company they are producing for or who else might be working for the company. At the US Social Forum she was able to meet with precarious workers here.

Bushra Khaliq wrote a brief report on the 1st of September based on her visit to Kot Addu:

Taking up the challange with new hope
Taking up the challange with new hope

As flood waters are receding in areas of Kot Addu, people are beginning to shift from temporary camps back to their villages. After spending two to three weeks in relief camps and experiencing untold miseries, some families have returned to their ravaged villages only to find their houses have collapsed, either partially or completely. People are returning by walking, by riding cycles, tractor trolleys or donkey carts, and loaded down with usable items; whether empty water cans, boxes, rations or animals--often goats and poultry. Broken roads, caved-in bridges, tilted railway tracks, ravaged crops and the rotten smell of stagnant water present a sad picture of the land, which was lush green with standing crops only a month ago.

Many other families still reside in the camps. Today I visited a few camps and villages near Kot Addu. There are 300 camps in Lakhay area with about 2500 inhabitants. Life is miserable in these camps. The tents are very small, with space for only two charpoys (beds). With no separate toilets for women, they have to go to the nearby fields to answer the call of nature. Cholera and malaria are spreading, particularly among children and the elderly. They need medicines against malaria and stomach-related diseases. Women need rations and utensils so they can to cook but relief is lacking. They are also in need of under garments.

After visiting the camp I also visited three villages: Basti Moradabad, Basti Seikhan and Basti Reharwala. These Bastis revealed horrific pictures of destruction. Only few structures were still had four walls intact. The kacha houses completely vanished while brick houses are partially damaged. The families have started repairing their houses and dwellings. Since men are still with their cattle, it is women who are first to return to home. With whatever meager resources are available they are carrying out repair work. They are collecting bricks, wood and straw to remake their dwellings. Some of them are busy plastering walls with mud.

women have taken up repair work with meager resources in Basti Murad Wala-Kot AdduIn their dilapidated houses, they are searching for valuables and needed items including clothes, shoes and quilts. They resurrect them from the mud and waste in order to make them reusable. Their kitchens are vanished, and there are no pots, no utensils. Still they need food, medicine, fodder, quilts, carts and new clothes for their children. Others are finding grain and spreading it out to dry in the open.

The majority in these villages are sick, suffering from fever and malaria. So the women not only take up reconstruction work without waiting for outside help, but they are also looking after the sick members of family. Since most of the relief operations are limited to the camps, there is a real fear is that those returning to their villages will be forgotten. Relief workers have to reach out to the families who migrated back to their villages. Being in their own devastated and destroyed houses does not mean they are safe and out of the misery. The level and degree of daily needs for these newly returned families are similar to the needs of families still inside the camps. Seemingly invisible to the eyes of the camera and relief workers, these returning families need a continued supply of relief items at least until the time their kitchens are repaired.

These families are facing the huge challenge of restarting life from scratch. The women I talked to were very worried about not having cash or in-kind goods to purchase clothes for their family, particularly their children, for the coming Eid-ul-Fiter. They were also worried as winter will be approaching soon and they do not have warm clothes, blankets and quilts.

Kaneez needs support to rebuild one room before winter season

NOTE: If you are interested in contributing to the relief effort, the Women Workers Help Line works through the Labour Educational Foundation, a non-governmental agency. The easiest and quickest method of transferring money is via Western Union. (Until September 15 Western Union will transfer the money without charge.) Wire money to Khaliq Mohmood, Director of the Labour Education Foundation in Lahore, Pakistan. When Western Union transfers the money the clerk will give you a number. Then write Khaliq Mohmood at khalid@lef.org.pk and provide him with the number and the amount transferred.

Jubilee South-Asia Calls for Debt Cancellation!

Given the extent of the devastation, a number of organizations in Pakistan and beyond are calling for a debt cancellation. Here is a statement from Jubilee South-Asia:

The Jubilee South-Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JS-APMDD) joins the international community in expressing deep solidarity with the people of Pakistan who continue to suffer from the devastating floods that has so far claimed more than a thousand lives, left four million people homeless and damaged 7.9 million acres of farmland and other economic structures. Not only did the floods wreak havoc to lives and property, it also intensely exacerbated the already dire situation of the Pakistani people.

The JS-APMDD together with all its member organizations throughout the Asia-Pacific joins in the call for repudiation and cancellation of the debts claimed from Pakistan.

It is urgent that the government of Pakistan is to repudiate all illegitimate debts, especially those which were incurred during the military dictatorships that spanned for decades, and use the freed funds for relief and rehabilitation Notably, one-third of the Pakistani budget is spent on debt servicing. This meant $3 billion in 2009.

International lenders should immediately and unconditionally cancel all debts claimed from Pakistan. It is condemnable that international financial institutions are asserting that this is the most opportune time for Pakistan to borrow funds in order to rebuild and upgrade the devastated economy. While the country is suffering human, social and cultural impacts of floods, these institutions are tempting the Pakistani government to accept new loans. These new loans will lead to further expansion of international lenders’ influence and pressure on Pakistan’s economy and will multiply the debt burden of the people.

We are also reminded of lessons and experiences in the aftermath of the tsunami of 2004 December when the International Financial Institutions used the relief and rehabilitation process in several Asian countries to hasten the privatization of essential services such as water, related infrastructure and public lands. This must not be allowed to happen again in the wake of the disaster in Pakistan.

We join our Pakistan colleagues in calling on peoples organizations, movements and civil society groups to pressure northern governments and international financial institutions to cancel debts claimed from Pakistan, stop them from pushing more loans and exploiting the situation to advance their vested interests, and instead mobilize financial reparations to be used for relief and rehabilitation efforts that are designed and led by the people of Pakistan themselves.

Lidy Nacpil
Coordinator
Jubilee South - Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt & Development (JSAPMDD)
Telefax 632-9253036
34 Matiyaga Street, Central District, Quezon City, Philippines 1100

International solidarity in climate disasters

A small bright spot in this overwhelming catastrophe is the international solidarity it has generated, both in terms of humanitarian aid and in growing momentum for debt cancellation, both of which Dianne point to above. As global warming continues and disasters like this get more common, we're going to have to continue and expand such campaigns, and figure out how to pair them with the demand to cut carbon emissions and create a globally just climate treaty.

You can also donate to the Labor Relief Committee via PayPal on the Campaign for Peace and Democracy website: http://cpdweb.org/Pakistan_flood.shtml

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