On 5th September, 2010 the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) makes its second relief trip to Thatta district in the southern province of Sindh. This time around we take along a truckload of fodder for the animals and three teams of veterinarians:
Karachi Animal Hospital
Dr. Shalla Hayat and Dr. Zulfiqar Haider Otho
Veterinary students Mohammad Ali, Mohammad Saifullah and Suroop Chand
The Brooke Hospital for Animals
Dr. Sher Nawaz, Senior Program Manager
Veterinary Officer Dr. Mohammad Kashif
Veterinary assistants Ayaz Hussain and Shah Jahan
Pakistan Hindu Council
Dr. Mohan Lal Harchandani, General Secretary, Pakistan Hindu Council
Dr. Gul Rajput, Pak Pets Clinic, DHA
Dr. Ganga Ram, Rajput Veterinary Clinic, Sharae-Faisal
Dr. Ram Prakash, Government Veterinary Hospital, Malir 15
Volunteer Deepak Kumar
Also joining us on this trip is friend and writer Shandana Minhas.
Our rental van comes to get us at 7.30am. We pick the Karachi Animal Hospital veterinarians and volunteers on the way and head towards Cattle Colony on the outskirts of the city. As we near the warehouse in Cattle Colony where our fodder truck is waiting for us, we spot a downed cow by the roadside. Several men are trying to get her up by putting a long crowbar underneath her. We immediately pull over so our vets can have a look. The cow’s eyes are bloodshot and her head is rolling about. She is apparently quite distressed. The vets convince the men not to raise her like that as she is pregnant and about to give birth. The men are not aware of this and there is generally quite a bit of confusion with one man saying the baby has died already, and the other saying she is not pregnant at all.
Apparently, the cow has just arrived in a truck with six others after a grueling 24 hour nonstop journey from Faisalabad and collapsed after getting off the truck. These poor animals are made to stand throughout the journey and are offered water only once at Pano Aqil, about halfway to Karachi.
The vets give her 15cc of Dexamethasone (cortisone) and a multivitamin injection and ask the men to call the owner. What the cow urgently needs is calcium via a Milfone C drip to help her get up, and also with the contractions for birthing. After waiting around for some time, the owner finally arrives, looking as though he has just got out of bed. He asks some questions and does his own examination of the cow to verify the necessity of calling him out this early on a Sunday morning. Finally, reassured, he arranges for the drip. Veterinary student Suroop accompanies him as he goes to purchase it. Given that it’s a Sunday, the pharmacies are closed, though some open later in the day to service the large livestock population in Cattle Colony. However the owner knows a storekeeper personally and has asked him to open shop early because of the emergency.
Meanwhile, two of us go up ahead to the warehouse to receive the Bedford truck which is loaded with animal fodder and ready to hit the road. We are taking 88 bales of wheat straw, 500kg of goat feed (oats, maize, red rice and wheat husk), and 200kg of chicken feed (sunflower seeds, maize, red rice, millet). This is enough food to feed 176 cows and buffaloes, 33 goats and 3,333 chickens for a day.
We send the truck along with instructions that the truck’s driver Mohammad Jumman will meet up with us at the Shell pump at Makli. By the time we return to the rest of the team, the drip has arrived and veterinarians Dr. Zulfiqar Haider Otho and Dr. Shalla Hayat prepare to administer it to the cow who is still pretty much down and out. After giving the drip the doctors tell the men to let the cow be as it will get up on its own in a while. By 9.45am we are finally on our way to Thatta.
The veterinary teams of the Pakistan Hindu Council and the Brooke Hospital for Animals had passed by us as we were in Cattle Colony. We catch up with them in Dhabeji on the National Highway. The vets keep a lookout for a veterinary store from which to get calcium drips, should we come across more animals like the cow we just treated. The Bismillah Veterinary Store in Gharo has only one in stock, and we purchase it before continuing on our way.
Displaced families line almost the entire length of the National Highway. They are camped out along the highway and in open fields in makeshift shelters. We hadn’t seen this many people during our last trip to the area just a week earlier. Before setting out on our mission, we contacted Zahid Hussain Jalbani, Site Manager WWF Makli, and Dr. Qaisar Jatoi, District Officer Livestock, Thatta to identify a place where fodder is urgently required. They receive us at the Shell pump just before Makli and help us chalk out a plan of action for the day.
Before making this trip we had thought we would take the fodder to the Makli graveyard, where previously we had seen many poor families camped in the bushes. We thought we would offload the fodder at some halfway point and inform the families to collect it as we moved amongst them, treating their sick. Dr. Kaiser Jatoi advises against such a plan as operating in an open area would require police supervision in order to keep chaos at bay. The police will take a long time to arrive, he says, so better to offload the fodder within the four walls of his office’s compound. People from Makli could then be sent there to collect their individual share.
This we are not quite sure about. Many questions arise: how far exactly is his office from the graveyard? Would people be able to get there on foot? How will they cart back the fodder? Will they manage to get their share at all? How will we even know? We want to see the fodder getting to the most needy animals right in front of ourselves. However, since we are outsiders and unaware of the ground realities of the area, we are persuaded by his argument. We see the wisdom in his suggestion when, while on the way to the Livestock Department, a bag of chicken feed is stolen off the truck by some unruly pedestrians. Once in the compound, the gates have to be shut behind us to keep out the crowd eyeing our goods.
Suddenly, while offloading the truck, Dr. Kaiser Jatoi announces we should take the fodder to Bachao Bund, an embankment past the Doolah Darya bridge on the way to the flooded town of Sujawal. Apparently thousands of people and their animals are stranded on the embankment, and the Livestock Department has only delivered fodder there once several days ago. According to Dr. Jatoi, livestock camped on the embankment has no access to grazing grounds and so probably doing more poorly than animals in the city camps. The ropes have already been cut with the offloading underway by an impatient driver and crew and we are put in something of a fix. We wish this decision had been made at the outset so the cargo is unloaded only once. The driver seems unwilling to move it elsewhere. There is much arguing and persuading and resistance, until finally a suitable sum is agreed upon. We pack up again, while the goat and chicken feed sacks and wheat straw bales already offloaded are left at the livestock’s office for the people of Makli.
And so we are on our way past Thatta and towards Sujawal. The Doolah Darya bridge is pretty much deserted. A donkey’s carcass lies rotting on one side. A few men squat on the tarmac, waiting for public transport to take them to a nearby city. The occasional donkey cart carrying fodder for displaced livestock around Thatta and Makli passes us by. In the distance, a brick kiln and a house lie submerged by water which is visible everywhere till as far as the eyes can see. It is hard to believe this is the same bridge over which a sea of suffering had flooded by just days ago.
Once at the embankment we split up into three teams. The Pakistan Hindu Council veterinarians go far up ahead on one side and distribute medicines. The Karachi Animal Hospital veterinarians go along the other side and start identifying and treating animals in need. The Brooke Hospital for Animals’ team heads towards the main road to treat the animals we’d seen on our way to the embankment.
We devise our very own parchi (piece of paper) system for fodder distribution. Baqai veterinary student Mohammad Ali supervises the offloading of the truck next to the intersection of the main road and the embankment. He is assisted by Altaf Hussain, stock assistant, District Office Livestock, Thatta. Each veterinary team is allotted up to 20 wheat straw bales. As they go on their rounds, they make out little parchis to needy livestock owners according to the different animals they own. The owners then head towards the road to pick up the fodder.
Khuda Bux is from the village of Wahid Dino near Dama Dama. Before being forced by the flood to take refuge on the embankment, he made a living from his donkey cart. His six children used to go to school back in the village, but when they will see the inside of a classroom again, he has no idea. He has three buffaloes, two donkeys, a few chickens and a dog. He tells us everyday a few families pool in some money (Rs. 350 to 500) and hire a pickup to get fodder (30 wheat straw bales) from Thatta for their livestock.
The animals are mostly cows, buffaloes, some goats and, occasionally, chickens. As our volunteer veterinarians walk along the embankment treating livestock, some people also line up with their injured pet dogs, waiting patiently for their turn. They use them to guard their livestock and are clearly attached to them. We treat a total of 5 dogs and a puppy, most of them for maggot wounds. During treatment of one of the dogs, a fight between two dogs ensues and Dr. Shalla is badly bit on her leg. We break for fifteen minutes for her to rest and wash her wound. This done we ask her to wait in the van while we see a few more cases, but she will have none of it and continues seeing patients, hopping along to keep the weight off one leg.
Dr. Otho spots a tiny little four week old brown and white female puppy with a wound on her hind leg. Her siblings are healthy and running about playfully, but she looks malnourished and clearly in distress. The wound on her leg is full of maggots, eating her flesh away. We remove the maggots and clean the wound thoroughly. Since nobody claims ownership of the puppy, we decide to take her to Karachi with us and foster her till she’s adopted. The vets empty a red basket full of medicines, line it with paper and put the puppy inside it. She doesn’t make a sound the rest of the day.
Among the various sights of quiet desperation is a donkey feeding on keekar leaves, inspite of the sharp thorns. The floodwaters have inundated the land for miles around, leaving nothing else for the donkeys to eat. Livestock in Pakistan is usually fed on cultivated forage (maize, millet, sorghum and barley), crop residues (wheat and rice straw, sugar cane tops) and concentrates (cereal grains, oilseed cakes and meals, molasses, sugar beet pulp). According to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, at least 2 million hectares of cultivable land have been damaged. If the coming planting seasons are missed, both livestock and people will continue to suffer for a long time.
In the middle of the embankment, a baby donkey walks alongside its mother. A young buffalo calf has not been so lucky. Its mother could not nurse it as she was pregnant and malnourished herself, and we are informed the calf died of hunger just the previous day. Its dead body lies at the water’s edge, attracting crows and other scavengers. Looking at this unnecessary loss of a young life further drives home the urgent need for fodder to reach the rural IDPs.
A little further up we come across residents of a village camping on the embankment alongside their drowned village and graveyard. They seem a little better off and more relaxed than the villagers we have seen thus far. Three kittens playfully tease a donkey, enjoying newly discovered freedom of movement on terra firma. They’ve just been rescued from one of the roofs of the drowned village. The villagers tell us they had been wanting to rescue the kittens for some time, but the water level had been too high to wade across. The kittens’ mother is still inaccessible, but they will be going back to tempt her onto dry land soon.
We finally turn around and head towards the intersection and our temporary distribution point. Some of the wheat straw bales have come apart and are lying scattered on the ground. This will not be wasted, however, as every last piece of straw is painstakingly gathered by the people and carted away by hand and on donkey carts. One farmer has the most magnificent pair of oxen pulling a traditionally carved cart. Dr. Zulfiqar and Dr. Shalla are unable to resist the offer for a little ride down the embankment.
As we are about to cross the Doolah Darya bridge back towards Thatta, we meet Dr. M. Mubarak Jatoi, General Secretary (Sindh) of the Pakistan Veterinary Medical Association. He is based in Hyderabad, and his team has just begun to provide veterinary support to the livestock in the area. We promise to keep in touch.
By now it is well past sunset and too late to meet up with WWF or the livestock officials to update them about the day. The Pakistan Hindu Council team has already wrapped up and gone back. The Brooke team is still busy treating animals in Thatta town which is flooded with displaced people and their livestock. We drive slowly out of town and head towards the town of Dhabeji. Friends who are running a camp for displaced families had heard about our veterinary relief mission and asked us to see a deformed baby calf at the Government Girls Primary School.
Niaz Ahmed hails from village Allah Bachaey Bhatti near Sujawal. He is living with his extended family at the school. His male baby cow Jona is deformed from birth, but otherwise healthy so far. Its mother was swept away by the floods. Jona drinks milk everyday and sleeps under mosquito netting at night. The vets think he won’t live to a very old age given his congenital deformity. Niaz owns 15 other cows, all of which he has managed to save and bring along.
Next patient in line is Mohammad Hashim’s pregnant goat that seems will give birth soon. Veterinarians Dr. Otho and Dr. Shalla diagnose her with pneumonia and measure out some electuary powder, a mixture of minerals to treat the respiratory inflammation. Mohammad Hashim is pleased to hear his goat might be having twins!
By 10 o’ clock we decide to call it a night and head back to Karachi. The volunteers are dropped along the way but we still have one more stop to make. The rescued puppy has to be taken to the Karachi Animal Hospital to thoroughly clean her wounds. We decide to call her Suji, short for Sujawal, the town near where we found her.
According to the Department of Livestock, 1.2 million small and large animals and 6 million poultry have died in the floods. The livelihoods of up to 80% of the flood affectees depend on these animals, the loss of which is crippling to poor households. The animals that have survived urgently require fodder and veterinary support.
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.