When floods swept through Sindh Province in northern Pakistan in September 2012, Haseena, a widowed mother of four, lost her home, her livestock and her means of making an income. In all, more than US$500 worth of her property was washed away or ruined – an almost insurmountable loss for a woman trying to raise a family in Sindh.
“Both of my goats were killed in the floods, and our home was damaged,” said Haseena. She took children and headed at her sister’s home in Shikarpur City, about 25kms from her village.
Before the floods, Haseena and her eldest daughter earned a living by selling hand-crafted caps, clothes and bed covers. However, in the months following the floods they were forced to borrow money from relatives and eat fewer meals to make ends meet.
It took four months for the flood waters to recede before Haseena and her family could return to their home. They found that many families in their village had been affected by the flooding, and as a result, they had no market for their newly stitched clothes and bed covers.
“I could not recover from that situation on my own. My house was still damaged and I did not have any livestock,” she said.
She worked as a labourer on a local farm, earning a tiny income to meet some of her family’s basic needs. She was unable to provide a healthy diet for her children, replace her lost livestock, or repair her home.
Emergency cash grants
The 2012 floods affected an estimated 4.4 million people across Pakistan and claimed 370 lives. Local economies were devastated. In all, more than 750,000 acres of crops were destroyed and more than 275,000 shops and homes were damaged.
Haseena’s family was one of thousands in Sindh in desperate need of assistance. In February of this year, OCHA provided the American-based NGO the International Rescue Committee (IRC) with a $150,000 grant from its Emergency Response Fund (ERF) to help some of these families.
The ERF is a country-based pooled fund that provides NGOs and UN agencies with rapid and flexible funding to address critical gaps in humanitarian emergencies. Since its inception in Pakistan in August 2010, the ERF has provided more than $44 million to more than 193 projects, benefiting more than 5 million people.
With this grant, the IRC was able to provide cash assistance to more than 1,750 families in northern Sindh that were affected by the floods, short of food or vulnerable in other ways.
A sewing machine and a new start
The cash assistance came with a catch. In the months following the floods, many affected communities also faced serious health risks, including malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory infections. In response, IRC reached out to some of the most vulnerable families – including Haseena’s – and offered them training in nutrition, health and hygiene and food preparation.
Cash grants were contingent on these training sessions being completed. Once done each family received $90. For Haseena, this was enough to buy a month’s worth of food and a new sewing machine. This investment quickly helped her to pay off some of the debt she had incurred during her family’s displacement.
“Before the grant was given to me, I used to earn up to PKR1,500 ($15) per month, but now my daughter and I earn 2,500 rupees ($25) or more using the sewing machine I bought,” she said. “Today I stand as a confident mother and I am happy and extremely thankful for the support we received.