Pakistan's floods alter lifestyle of the Jam people

Jam people living on boats

A traditionally self-sufficient ethnic group in Pakistan is now facing difficulties brought on by the devastating floods of July 2010.

The floods submerged 17 million acres of the country's most fertile land and destroyed thousands of villages in its path.

Some 20 million people were affected. Now the Jam people of Pakistan need support.  Gerry Adams reports.

SFX            sounds of water, baby crying

Narrator:      The Jam people, an ethnic group of Pakistan, spend most of their lives in riverboats on the Indus River in Pakistan.

As a small community of about 100 families — about one thousand people – they've been unable to access the Government's programmes of support.

In the past, during good years, the Jam were self-sufficient and survived through fishing, basket weaving and agriculture. They didn't need government assistance.

But last year's devastating floods in the country made life difficult for the small community.  Hassina Mai is a flood victim.

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Floods swept away all our belongings.  When the floods hit the area, my husband was not at home.  I managed to rescue my children.  Water took away our house and belongings.

Her husband Ashiq Hussain was away from home at the time of the flood helping others.  When he returned, there was nothing.

The floods were destructive.  I am now living on my brother's boat.

The Jam people have been struggling to recover ever since. Up to now, they've been unable to access government aid because they lack documentation.

When UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, heard about their plight, the agency distributed winter aid, including quilts, blankets, shawls, sweaters and hygiene kits for each family. Tehmina Roohi is a Field Coordinator with UNHCR.

UNHCR is the first organization that reached them with its winter pack and they are very glad to receive those packs.      [c-roohi-1]

Following the floods, some have rebuilt their simple riverbank homes.  But the needs of the Jam people remain significant and include access to safe drinking water, health and sanitation facilities, food, livelihood opportunities and schooling for the children.

Many now want to construct proper homes and receive state aid to help them rebuild their lives.

My dear brother, we need brick houses, a school, mosque, prayer leader, school teachers, latrines and money.  We need basic facilities and we want jobs.

Flood victim Ashiq Hussain of the Jam ethnic group of Pakistan.

The UN refugee agency is carrying out advocacy for the protection of the rights of the Jam people with the Government of Pakistan and other sister UN agencies.

Duration: 2’49″

Filed under Today's Features.
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