Faces of Desperation: From Simple Homes to Crowded Tents

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Aid workers continue to be on alert in Pakistan amid reports of deadly Taliban attacks against foreigners helping with flood relief efforts in the country. Kumar Periasamy serves as the director for International Operations and Programs at Operation Blessing International. The following is the Singapore native's firsthand account of the situation in the Taliban-oppressed region.

Most of the flood victims had simple homes made out of mud and straw. All their life-long savings were used to build their dream home. They may not have had all the luxuries, but a roof over their head, a bed to sleep in, a proper bathroom, privacy for the families, drinking water, the ability to cook a decent meal, and a place to have a guest was all that they hoped for.

Imagine the moment when all that was taken away. The worst part is that there is no such thing as home owners insurance.
 
Now they live in a cramped tent. Each day they hope their situation will improve. Their heart, mind and attitude changes because they are in survival mode. Before, there used to be food on the table. Now they have to watch and wait to see if someone will distribute food, blankets, or clean drinking water.

They must be quick and fast to get in line because everyone is dependent on aid and everyone is needy. There is no respect for their fellow neighbor anymore. They are angry, they push, and they fight to get their share of aid.

They now have to live with more than 100 families and share a common toilet.  There is no place to take a bath. They have no extra change of clothes, and privacy for women (which is an important part of the culture) is no longer there. Even if they are sick, they don't take medicines until the evening because they are fasting. I remember that in one of the medical camps a couple girls collapsed because of dehydration.

The weather today is very hot and humid. As I stand at the entrance of the relief camp and watch their struggles, all I can do is pray for these people. The men are waiting at the entrance of the camp making sure that they don't miss out on relief aid. The children are having a blast, swimming in the muddy river, cooling themselves off. 

A little further down the river, there are women washing their faces, brushing their teeth, and cleaning their utensils. They use the muddy water for both drinking and cooking. Imagine the women and young teenage girls who have to maintain privacy in their tents; they can't even have a breath of fresh air because no man should see them.
 
I walked to the river to demonstrate to the elders of the camp how the Life Saver Jerrycan can give them clean drinking water. I had a huge crowd follow me, which immediately attracted the police. They began dispersing the crowd, so I had my interpreter explain to the police that we were providing clean water to the camp. They then decided to provide security.

They also watched what I was about to do. I had one young man fill the Jerrycan with the muddy water. I selected a kid and had him pump the can 15 times and then turn the valve. Suddenly, clean drinking water began to flow. They were amazed to see the difference. We had the kids line up and gave them water to drink. The men would not drink because they were fasting.
 
As we were leaving, one of the police officers requested that we help more camps because the water was contaminated and people were sick. Our volunteers took the information, and we headed out to Peshawar. It was almost 6 p.m,. and everyone on the road was speeding. All were heading home to break their fast.

By this time, we were thirsty and hungry.  We also were a bit forced to fast since we couldn't find a store open during the day time to even purchase water. We drove to the old city for dinner. This place has historical significance.
 
Tomorrow we are heading to another location called Nowshera where we will be providing dinner for 2,000 people. Please continue to pray for the flood victims as well as for safety for the team and myself. God bless.

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Kumar Periasamy

Kumar Periasamy

Special to CBNNews.com

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