Guest post by volunteer Melanie Parkinson:
prostate Thatta district” width=”140″ height=”105″ class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-1194″ /> October 10: It’s only after we finish our work for the day and are given a tour of the village by a local teacher that we realize exactly how important the work that PAWS is doing here is. As outsiders (it’s our first day in Pakistan), we have no frame of reference for anything that we’re seeing – we don’t know what these fields used to be like and while we’re working, most of the village is hidden from view, so we can just see water marks on one or two buildings and a skirt of mud around the random patches of sugar cane that has survived. But once we are taken into the village, it quickly becomes clear that the animals are all these people have left.
My friend and I arrived in Karachi late the night before and after grabbing a few hours sleep we’ve hopped into a car and driven out into the countryside. It’s a slow trip, but we’re mesmerized by everything that we see as it slowly sinks in that we’re really not in Sydney any more.
As we close in on our destination, we start seeing dead fields – rows and rows of mounded, grey earth, webbed with the telltale marks of the floods – cracks where the surface of the mud has dried very quickly. It looks very dry from the car, but we’ll learn as soon as we step out of the car that it sinks underfoot – its still water-logged and nothing could grow here. The road is very rough by this stage, and has been narrowed in places where the sides have dropped away during the flooding.
When we arrive at the village, we are each assigned to a vet team and our job is really note-taking. The vets and their assistants do the hard work and don’t have time to keep inventory of what they do and what medicines they use, so that’s what we do. We also write out fodder vouchers to give to the villagers so that they can collect food for their animals from the truck that came with us. There is not enough fodder for everyone, so only the sick animals will get it.
My vet, Dr Shalla, explains the first few cases to me as we go. I learn that the yellow liquid being squirted into the buffaloes mouths is drench for intestinal parasites and that ivermectin is what they inject in the calves with lice or mites. Most of the work they do is drenching and it’s hard work – the buffaloes are huge and uncooperative and its a very hot day to be wrestling them. I feel very unAustralian in not being able to just step in front of these beasts and hypnotize them into cooperation with a wave of my hand, Crocodile Dundee-style.
Most of the animals we see are buffaloes, but there’s some variety added by a goat and a dog who need some attention. The dog has a nasty maggot wound and the vets go to elaborate lengths to bind it still before they begin work – this turns out to be a necessary precaution as it’s clearly a painful procedure for the dog. The wound looks like a drill hole in the dogs leg and some maggots are pulled out with tweezers and others crawl out after the vet squirts a maggot killing solution into the hole. The dog tries to howl through its temporary muzzle, and its tail slows from a chirpy wag to a pathetic occasional thump on the dirt.
The goat has a large cyst on one of its knees, which is drained, cleaned and bandaged. Like many of the animals, it is looked after by one of the boys from the village, who listens attentively to Dr Shalla’s instructions on how to continue to treat the wound after she goes.
After another hour or so of treating buffaloes, we head back to the vehicles to meet up with the rest of the group so that we can get back on to the main road before it’s too dark. My friend and I are offered a tour of the village by a the village teacher who can speak good English, and demonstrates that he understands that we’re Australian by saying “Ricky Ponting”.
Up until this point, it’s been clear that what the vets have been doing is helpful, and the villagers are very keen to get their sick animals tended, but just how vital this work is hadn’t quite hit home. As we walk into the village, we see what the water has done. The village is a wasteland of drying mud – piles of dirt, straw, half-buried thatched roofs, pieces of doors and smashed beds. In any available clearing, beds have been set up – usually out in the open, but sometimes under a temporary shade.
The teacher points at each pile of devastation, “this was 10 houses, this was six houses, this was 12 houses”. He takes us in to each of the houses that remain and shows us the great cracks in the floors and walls and the marks that the water has left. In some of the rooms, there are still puddles of water, and none of them are inhabitable, they are too dank and dangerous.
We ask about the crops in the area, and the teacher tells us what we’ve already seen, that only some of the sugarcane has survived, everything else has been lost. The river that used to be several kilometers away is now only a couple of hundred meters walk and he takes us to it. He introduces us to the midwife in the neighbouring village, which is much smaller, and we have a quick look over it – the story is the same, there is nothing left.
While the team I was in had been tending largely to buffaloes, the other vet teams had worked on donkeys, goats, oxen and camels. They were treated for parasites, skin disorders, malnourishment, fevers, injuries, maggots, eye problems, foot and mouth disease, rheumatism and a gamut of other problems. All in all over 170 animals were seen. And 100 bales of wheat straw, 600kg of goat feed, 340 kg of donkey feed and 100 kg of chicken feed was given out – enough to feed 200 buffaloes, 40 goats and 1,666 chickens for a day.