Below, a personal note of Aug 25, 2010 about flood relief efforts in Kohistan, from Rashida Dohad, who works with the Omar Asghar Khan Foundation (see website for updates, an overview of their flood relief efforts and photo gallery). As explained on the website, floods have affected 16 (nine severely) of the 24 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “Many in need of urgent aid are difficult to access as areas are isolated due to road/bridge destruction/damage; and blockages due to landslides. The Foundation is initially focusing on the following districts: Nowshera, Charsadda, Shangla, Kohistan, Battagram and Mansehra.” Read on for Rashida’s account of their rather dramatic recent trip to the remote Kandian Valley in Kohistan:
“The valley is now isolated as its 25- mile long road and the two bridges that connected it with the nearest town and the rest of the country were all swept away by the floods. Responding to the distress signals, we took an alternate route crossing Babusar Pass (16,000 ft), travelling down the Chilas Valley to reach Kandian — a grueling 20-hour journey over bumpy roads and gushing streams.
“For the first three days after the floods, the people in the valley thought they faced certain death. They were perched on a high mountain surrounded on all sides by ferocious water that was continually rising. After three days, as the water level that had surged by more than 30 ft receded a little, a few ventured down the extremely dangerous terrain to make their way to the nearest town.
“This remote area is among the poorest in the country. Its people lead tough lives in difficult terrain, and are hardened, uncompromising and often aggressive. And yet as we talked with them about the need to work together and in partnership – they responded with uncharacteristic warmth. Our food unit was too heavy for a single person to carry up the steep mountain and so it was agreed that one unit will be shared among two families – this sharing was done by the Kohistanis. We distributed food for more than 7,000 people that afternoon.
“It was sizzling hot. The sun was beating down our backs and heat was emanating from the imposing mountains of the narrow valley. After a few hours, I fainted due to dehydration!! My colleagues and the Kohistanis – who are also VERY conservative – helped me to a car and gave me a cold apple cider (thought I probably needed a chilled beer!!) and I was on my feet again.
“We left Pani Bah around 5:30 pm. Stopped at a natural stream for a shower!! Had iftari on the terrace of a roadside khoka and reached Chilas around 9:00 pm. Each of our ten team members had 6-7 glasses of water.
“The next morning we began our journey back climbing upto the Babusar Pass and stopping for a pic literally on the top of the world at 16,000 ft and then making our way down the valley, passing the spectacular Lallopatsar Lake, then onto Naran and finally reaching Balakot at iftari – the town that was completely destroyed by the 2005 earthquake. The determination of local people has helped revive the Balakot bazaar – though the local public school is still in ruins.
“As we approached one small shop, an old man left his own iftari and rushed towards us offering khajoor and some fruit in his effort to feed the travelers first.”
Filed under: Floods | Tagged: baboosar pass, Babusar Pass, Balakot, Battagram, charsadda, Chilas Valley, flood relief, Kandian Valley, Kohistan, Lallopatsar Lake, Mansehra, Naran, Nowshera, oak foundation, omar asghar khan foundation, Pakistan, Pani Bah, rashida dohad, Shangla |