Tales of Resilience: <br>Sindh’s Unyielding Spirit

Written by

September 15, 2023


Islamic Relief’s Head of Global Advocacy 

Shahin Ashraf reflects on her recent visit to Pakistan, one year on from the life-changing floods. 

The journey through Sindh, Pakistan, unfurled a tapestry woven with stories of fortitude, bravery, and the indomitable spirit of its inhabitants. 

 

Sindh, often revered as Bab-ul-Islam (the gateway of Islam), isn’t just a geographical region; it stands as a realm holding the remnants of one of humanity’s earliest civilizations—the Indus Valley Civilization. With over 54 million souls calling it home, Sindh is a mosaic of diversity. 

 

Our journey started in Sukkur, where we were met by desert winds, and the blistering heat of 45 degrees Celsius, 

 

We travelled to villages that had weathered the ravages of floods just a year prior. Gazing upon the haunting remnants from the plane—submerged fields, tranquil waters, and memories etched deep within the soil—we were reminded of the power of nature. 

 

Amid these villages, we encountered communities whose stories were etched into the fabric of their lives. With open hearts, they shared tales of resilience in the face of insurmountable odds. These villagers spoke of a deluge that forced them to abandon their possessions, as rain fell with unrelenting persistence. Watermarks on walls stood as chilling reminders of the chaos wrought by the floodwaters. 

Harrowing stories 

 

I met 30-year-old Muhammad* from a village near MirpurKhas, who recounted how much of his livestock perished, alongside his family’s assets. 

 

I also met 25 year old  Rahma from Dadu* who recounted her struggle through tear-filled eyes. 

 

Caught unaware by the fury of the floods, the villagers had no time to prepare, but only to gather their loved ones and embark on a journey to safety. Rahma described how they carried their elderly family members through hours of arduous trekking, moving from one desolate village to another, only to find fellow villagers in similar distress.

 

The rain seemed unending, its urgency carving paths wherever it could. For three gruelling months, they faced the wrath of nature with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Cooking became a distant memory, obliterated by the omnipresent wetness that marred even the most basic provisions. 

 

“No tents were available. We washed clothes in the murky waters. Our children’s skin bore the brunt of these unsanitary conditions”, said Rahma, as she showed me the marks on her daughter’s skin. 

 

In the midst of such adversity, mothers placed their children’s wellbeing above all else. Sacrifices were made and meals were foregone in order to ensure that the young ones were nourished. Rahma’s voice trembled as she recalled those days- a period where plastic bags became their only defence against the relentless downpour.

Ongoing struggles 

 

Respite finally arrived with relief efforts that brought tents and temporary shelter.

 

 But challenges still loomed large. 

 

Women were stripped of their dignity, The scarcity of sanitary products led to desperate measures, with women using tattered clothing as makeshift pads, a choice that later led to infections. 

 

I also heard stories of pregnant women who were forced to give birth on the roadside, serving as a stark reminder of the harsh reality these communities still faced.

 

I also heard the devastating  accounts of younger girls.  15-year-old  Nur spoke of the absence of schools, how she felt traumatised by the floods which were still vivid in her memory, and the uncertainty of the future. 

 

14-year-old Zara spoke of the period following the floods, where they lived without tents, as lives were turned upside down.

 

 As teenage girls, the experience was especially challenging, with a lack of privacy, washrooms, and basic dignity. 

Unwavering strength and selflessness

 

These stories revealed the extraordinary resilience and strength of communities, despite the odds stacked against them. As we departed these villages, the echoes of their stories lingered. 

 

I also met heroes on the ground- Islamic Relief aid workers, who had been working tirelessly in the face of the most difficult conditions to help struggling families. 

 

The Islamic Relief team persevered amid scorching temperatures and heavy rainfall. Their commitment to serving the people of Sindh was boundless. 

 

Operating across almost 80% of Sindh, these staff  proved that unwavering dedication could overcome even the most adverse circumstances.

Aid workers spoke of witnessing trauma, families torn, and the overwhelming needs they faced. The challenges were immense, yet their determination to make a difference was clear. 

 

A year after the floods, I once again sat down with these dedicated staff members. Time had not diminished their resolve; if anything, it had fuelled it further. Seeking long-term funding for sustained support, they understood that the journey to recovery was far from over.

 

The most remarkable aspect was their sacrifices beyond duty’s call. Many had families living far away, yet they chose to remain and serve.  Their dedication to Sindh’s people serves as an inspiration to us all, and  a reminder that even during the darkest of times, the light of compassion can guide us towards a better future.

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