Calgary's Pakistani community in 'agony' as floods devastate country

·3 min read
Floods in Pakistan have displaced more than 30 million people across the country since mid-June.  (Photo submitted Islamic Relief Canada - image credit)
Floods in Pakistan have displaced more than 30 million people across the country since mid-June. (Photo submitted Islamic Relief Canada - image credit)

Mian Khalid Jan has watched in agony as devastating floods raged through his home province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan.

For 24 hours he couldn't sleep, eat, or work.

Jan is in Calgary, but much of his family, including his brother and sister, are among hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis who have been displaced by catastrophic floods that have raged through that country over the past three months.

"The initial 48 hours, that was a terrible, terrible time for us," said Jan.

"We were monitoring all night what was happening, what was going on. There was no electricity there, so it was really stressful for us [trying] to make a connection with our family to know about their well-being."

Photo submitted Islamic Relief Canada
Photo submitted Islamic Relief Canada

Since June, an unprecedented monsoon season has affected all four of Pakistan's provinces. It triggered flash floods across the country that have impacted 33 million people, leaving them without electricity or water.

Fearing the worst

Nearly one million homes have been damaged, resources have been depleted, and at least 1,061 people have been killed.

According to U.S. officials, the damage sustained exceeds $10 billion. Even though a third of the country is underwater, some worry that the worst is yet to come.

Islamic Relief Canada
Islamic Relief Canada

"We expect more because even for next week, they have forecasted a lot of rain, so it has not yet stopped. It's not the end of the floods," said Tayyab Shah, a Pakistani-Canadian.

"And then there are shortages of food, medicine because roads have been damaged so badly and the road infrastructure throughout the country is under stress."

He said the damage to the roads has made it nearly impossible for people like his in-laws in the country to get resources.

"Given the poor capacity to respond to these natural disasters, one feels really helpless," said Shah.

"It's not easy to watch those videos,big buildings, hotels, roads, bridges, being washed away."

A call for help

Thousands of kilometres away in Calgary, people from Pakistani-Canadian families are doing what they can to help those affected.

An event in the city's northeast last weekend has already raised more than $50,000.

Kohawar Khan, a Pakistani-born Canadian who works with the Alberta chapter of Islamic Relief Canada, said her connection to her birth-country comes through her parents.

"My mom, she came up to me and said 'Kohawar I need to talk to you … parents don't have fabric or cloth to bury their kids in, they're burying them in plastic bags. Something has to be done, what is the organization responding on, what are you guys doing.'"

Khan's organization is part of a humanitarian coalition that's working with the government of Canada. They're collaborating with 12 other agencies to make sure people's funds are being used in the most appropriate way.

Despite those efforts, she still believes that a more permanent, long term solution needs to be implemented.

"Islamic Relief wrote a report on climate change, in particular climate change in Pakistan… we're hoping that the worst is over, but a lot of stuff comes up after the worst part is over too," she said.

"There definitely has to be something that is a long-term solution for Pakistan."