August 29, 2010: The Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), in collaboration with the Karachi Animal Hospital, organized a relief mission to Thatta and Makli in Sindh to provide veterinary treatment to the flood’s animal victims.
We left Karachi at 9am for the 100km drive to Thatta on the National Highway. Our team included veterinarians Dr. Zulfiqar Haider Otho and Dr. Shalla Hayat of the Karachi Animal Hospital, Baqai veterinary students Mashood Ahmed, Mohammad Saifullah and Suroop Chand, volunteers Francis Liaquat Khushi, Emmanual Liaquat Khushi, Benjamin Khushi and Viyay Arif Massieh, and PAWS co-founders Maheen Zia and Mahera Omar.
The massive devastation caused by the floods in Pakistan has affected over 17 million individuals, killed 1,536 people and destroyed 1.2 million houses. In the last couple of days, hundreds of thousands of people and their animals have fled their drowning villages and taken refuge around Makli, an ancient necropolis on the outskirts of Thatta. The situation was pretty tense once we got to the Shell fuel pump just before Makli. While waiting at the pump for the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) team to escort us to Makli, we noticed people thronging the highway desperately trying to get their share of food and water from any relief truck entering the city.
We’d barely got on the road to Makli when our driver made an abrupt u-turn to avoid an angry mob looting a truck full of relief goods up ahead. We got onto the main Thatta road instead, and headed towards the EDO Agriculture and Livestock’s office. A handful of 4×4 vehicles of non-government organizations, ambulances, private cars, motorcycles, rickshaws, donkey carts, Suzuki pick-ups and the odd armed forces truck could be seen in the city. Hundreds of displaced families were camped in makeshift shelters with their animals on the main roads alone. Many more were squatting on the outskirts with barely any access to food, water or shelter for either themselves or their animals.
A couple of our team members had visited Thatta a few days earlier where they witnessed the heart-breaking scenes of the mass exodus of people and their animals from the surrounding villages to the city. It reminded them of scenes from the 1947 partition of Pakistan from India. The same kind of bullock carts, the same sea of humanity on foot mile after mile, the same worried looks on peoples’ faces, not knowing where exactly they would end up and when they’d be able to go back home. Most had sent their women and children ahead on trucks, and were now on foot with all their animals. Some were trying to help their baby buffaloes back on their feet, but the young animals simply couldn’t keep up with the rest of the herd. Again and again our team members spotted one or two men huddled on the side of the road over their collapsed animals, eventually having to leave them behind. There were even reports of people flinging their collapsed cows and buffaloes over the bridge on the Thatta – Sujawal road and into the river water.
Once at the EDO’s office, Zahid Hussain Jalbani, Site Manager WWF Makli, introduced us to Vickio Chohan, EDO Agriculture, Thatta, and Dr. Qaisar Jatoi, District Officer Livestock, Thatta. They inform us there are approximately 300,000 small and large animals around Makli for which there is an extreme shortage of fodder. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture estimates 3.6 million hectares of standing crops have been damaged or destroyed, and fodder for the animals has been either washed away or damaged by silt. With so much of farmland inundated by floodwaters, both people and animals have lost a vital source of food.
After the updates by the local officials, we spent the rest of the day providing veterinary treatment to injured or sick buffaloes, cows, goats and other animals in the Thatta – Makli area. WWF arranged for two volunteers who led the way on a motorbike. People seemed pleased to see us and eagerly pointed out the injured or sick animals in their vicinity. They were extremely grateful to us for providing much needed veterinary relief to their animals, as they cannot afford to lose even one of them. A few even brought their dogs over for a checkup.
It was a hot day, with temperatures rising to 40 degrees Celsius. Women, children and small animals huddled under every inch of available shade. A baby buffalo and an old woman were taking refuge in the shade of a small thorny devi bush. The smaller animals like goats and chickens were generally under the shade of charpais (beds). There was even a duck under one! We spotted pet pigeons perched on top of their cage, free to fly around as they pleased.
Most of the men had taken their livestock out to graze in nearby fields and would return later in the evening. Women would walk far to the nearest watering hole to fetch murky water for their families and the smaller animals that were too young to walk to the water themselves. We saw a woman by the roadside pouring water on her buffalo’s head to keep it cool.
The care and concern of the people for their animals was evident wherever we went, whether it was at a well-run camp in the city, by the roadside on the outskirts, or in makeshift shelters amidst cactus and tombs on the hills of Makli. Some hadn’t received any relief goods from the government authorities themselves, yet were busy making sure their remaining animals survive.
A total of 28 cases were treated by our two volunteer veterinarians assisted by the veterinary students.
Due to the increasing chaos in the city, WWF advised us to head back to Karachi well before sunset. As we left Thatta, a slow moving Rangers truck full of relief goods was being mobbed near the National Highway. Even the armed personnel were helpless once surrounded by hundreds of desperate people, angry at the authorities about inadequate arrangements for the displaced families.
80% of the flood affected population relies on agriculture and animals for their livelihoods. According to the Ministry of Livestock and Dairy Development, around 1.2 million livestock and 6 million poultry have died throughout the country. The hundreds of thousands of animals that have survived are in urgent need of emergency fodder, shelter and veterinary support.
At least 7 trucks of fodder (wheat straw) are required to be sent in daily to feed the animal population around Thatta and Makli. Each truck will cost around Rs. 80,000 (934 USD). A supply chain of food has to be set up on war footing to prevent starvation amongst the remaining livestock, which are a valuable source of income and draught power for the people. For many poor refugees from small farming communities, their livestock is their only remaining capital.
Please donate generously to PAWS so that we can continue to help the voiceless victims of the tragic floods in Pakistan.
PAWS is a non profit organization registered as a Company limited by guarantee under Section 42 of the Companies Ordinance, 1984. It is run totally by volunteers and does not have a shelter, business venue or paid staff. All the funds raised go directly towards rescuing and treating animals as well as awareness raising and advocacy work.
You can donate to PAWS by cheques, bank drafts and deposits or direct bank transfers.
Make cheques payable to: Pakistan Animal Welfare Society
Mailing Address: Office No. 8, Hamilton Court, Complex G-1, Main Clifton Road, Karachi 6, Pakistan
Title of Account: Pakistan Animal Welfare Society
Bank Name: Standard Chartered Bank
Bank Address: WTC – Clifton Branch, Karachi, Pakistan
Branch Code: 072
Account Number: 01-1508933-01
Swift Code: SCBLPKKXXX
Donations to PAWS are tax exempt under section U/S 2(36)(c) of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001.
PAWS accounts are audited annually by chartered accountants Salman & Co.