Jan 28 was a day with a difference for flood victims like Haji Suleman in a relief camp of Karachi , the southern metropolis.
The thumping of a platter gathered jubilant girls adorned in make-up and smiling children at Suleman’s camp as the sounds of merrymaking grew louder. Between the crowd, he sat crossed legged rhythmically moving his arms at the beat.
That day his eldest son got married in Dubai and all the 154 families living in the camp are invited for the festivities. The guests were being catered with sweets and tea when Caritas Pakistan workers in Karachi visited the place, one of the five settlements of the internally displaced persons the organisation had been supporting with food items, kitchen utensils, bottled water and hygiene kits.
Suleman, a farm labourer, had to borrow 20,000 rupees (US$ 234) from his landowner when his son left the country two years ago.
No help arrived when an eight food tide swept away the village where Suleman resided. Now living in a relief camp, he is still getting threatening phone calls from the employer to pay back or work for the amount now reached 1,00,000 rupees including interest.
“My feet have been swollen for three months thus hampering me from doing any labour. My son apologised for not sending any money since marriage was necessary for his career abroad; we are happy for the marriage despite our current predicament”, he said. Others described how they saved the utenslis given by Caritas Pakistan for the dowry of their daughters “due to the good quality of the items”.
Father to 11 children, Suleman now runs the household with the earnings of two of his younger sons and does not plan to return. “The influx of internally displaced people in the mega city has chopped down the rates of daily wages to half. Still we are happy to be free” he said adding travelling to nearby market, at least 15 kilometers away, is another challenge.
Suleman is among 88,000 people who headed to seaport city of Karachi after super floods inundated interior Sindh province last July. However, the waves of destruction also left behind something good.
“Generations of poor laborers were under bonded labour at the mercy of landlords. Many will not return to their abode for their newly founded freedom. However, they need to be engaged in livelihood policies to avoid rise of crime rate in the city”, said Riaz Nawab, the diocesan relief coordinator.
In its three year rehabilitation plan, Caritas Pakistan plans to provide a pair of goats as well as thatched shelter material to 1500 flood affected families in Karachi .