Pakistan flood victims going into debt to rebuild

Pakistan`s flood victims are scrambling to rebuild their homes. Many are taking on debt as the price of construction materials has soared following the disaster that damaged or destroyed 1.9 million houses.

Nowshera: With their villages in shambles, winter on its way and government help slow to arrive, Pakistan`s flood victims are scrambling to rebuild their homes. Many are taking on debt as the price of construction materials has soared following the disaster that damaged or destroyed 1.9 million houses.

The rush to rebuild three months after the water first came tearing through is a sign of Pakistanis` lack of faith in the weak civilian government, a key U.S. ally in the fight against Islamist militants whose patchy response to the crisis has undermined its stability. The government has promised it would come up with a long-term reconstruction strategy, but flood victims say self-reliance is a more realistic, and timely, option.

Aid agencies say they, too, are facing the time crunch and are running short of funds to provide temporary shelter for those displaced by the deluge.

Ghulam Ali`s three-bedroom, one-story house in this northwestern city collapsed during the floods. To rebuild, he has had to borrow 50,000 rupees ($583) from friends and family — what many Pakistanis earn in half a year — but it hasn`t been enough to even get past the foundation. To top that off, the 46-year-old lost a fortune in tools and products when his shoe shop was damaged by the floods.

All around Ali in the Abakhel neighborhood of Nowshera city are damaged houses and desperate residents. An older woman next door cried as she begged for help to build "just a room and kitchen." A few streets away, a family unable to start rebuilding has pitched a tent within their damaged home`s walls.

"Courage and hope is the only thing we have left," said Ali, whose family has been staying with relatives.

The only family that seems fairly far along in rebuilding is that of the local mason, who said he`ll help others as soon as he gets a roof over his own head.

The floods began in late July and lasted for weeks — some areas are still under water. Around 20 million people were affected — one-third made homeless. In parts of the south and east, numerous villages were swallowed up by the swollen Indus river as it gushed toward the Arabian Sea. More than a million homes were affected in southern Sindh province alone, according to United Nations figures.
The U.N. has asked international donors for $346 million to provide flood victims with emergency shelter, such as tents, and transitional shelter, which are basic structures that typically last a few years. It has so far received only 20 percent of that request.

"We are doing the best we can with what resources we have, but more support is needed for shelter to protect families during the winter months ahead," said Stacey Winston, a U.N. spokeswoman.
Even getting transitional shelters up and running takes time. Catholic Relief Services in Pakistan aims to build 2,600 such shelters in the north and 16,000 in the south. Over the past two weeks, it has constructed about 100 total. The group says it is on track to finish the ones in the north before winter hits.

But in some areas, "people are definitely starting to build with whatever they can find," said Carolyn Fanelli, the group`s head of programming in Pakistan.

Bureau Report

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