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Pakistan is still reeling from unprecedented floods that caused widespread destruction

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Catastrophic flooding in Pakistan has left nearly a third of the country underwater. Even now, nearly a month after unprecedented monsoon rains ended, much of the water is still there. NPR's Diaa Hadid has spent time in one badly affected district in southern Pakistan. She joins us now from Islamabad. Diaa, thanks so much for being with us.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: Thank you.

SIMON: Where were you? And what did you see?

HADID: Well, we were in a district called Dadu. It's deeply, deeply poor backwater, about five hours drive from the nearest city. And people there are farmhands. They raise livestock. They're fishermen. And there, the monsoon rains created a lake about 70 miles wide. Hundreds of villages, roads and fields were submerged. A few dozen people were killed. But a few villages stayed partly above water. And they're now like islands, and people are stranded there. Fishermen from the area are now boating people and supplies to and from these island villages to what is now the mainland. And we got on a few of these boats. It's surreal. You float past rooftops of schools and mosques and treetops.

SIMON: Diaa, what's happened to all the people who used to live in those villages underwater?

HADID: They're scattered. Some are in tent encampments that were set up by aid groups. But it seems like many more have just pitched up tents by roadsides where it's elevated and dry. While we were driving from place to place, we just saw people sitting under these rows of plastic tarpaulin and traditional patchwork quilts that were propped up by bamboo poles to give people shade. I mean, it was blazing hot. It was over 105 degrees most days we were there. The luckiest families had rescued their solar panels, which are widely used in the area, and they were operating fans.

SIMON: And you spoke to a number of these people, and I wonder what they told you and what their biggest concerns are now.

HADID: Yeah, well, let me tell you about one woman we spoke to. Her name is Benazir. She guesses she's about 20 years old, and she's been living for the past month under a plastic sheet on an embankment. And that's where we met her.

BENAZIR: (Speaking Sindhi).

HADID: She was telling our translator in Sindhi that her life has been a struggle. She can't keep the place clean. She - it's hard for her to cook food. She and her two daughters have to relieve themselves in a nearby field.

BENAZIR: (Speaking Sindhi).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Sindhi).

BENAZIR: (Speaking Sindhi).

HADID: The thing that Benazir really worries about is that they're all hungry, and they're sick. She's really worried about her youngest daughter, Salma, who's about 8 months old. She's got fever and diarrhea. And the thing is, is that most kids we met were sick because the floodwaters are polluted with sewage, and it's what most people have to drink. They don't have anything else. And there's mosquitoes all over the place, and they're spreading diseases like dengue and malaria. The government facilities are crowded with thousands of people who need treatment. Medicine's in short supply. So there's not really much health care. So Benazir tells me the best she can do is she's breastfeeding her daughter, Salma. Because when she gives her food, she just throws it up.

SIMON: Diaa, what kind of aid is coming in from the outside world?

HADID: Well, we could see that aid is coming in. But the thing is, flood victims are so scattered that it's hard to reach them all especially when aid workers have to negotiate long boat rides to reach these little village islands to search through for displaced people. And honestly, from what we saw, there's just not enough aid to go around because the need is so big; the devastation is so vast. People say they need more food, medicine, clean water, shelter. And this crisis is going to go on for months. And the hardest thing to consider is that everything these people are experiencing now, they might experience again in another year in the near future because scientists say these monsoon rains were made more intense because of climate change.

SIMON: NPR's Diaa Hadid speaking with us from Islamabad. Diaa, thank you so much.

HADID: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Diaa Hadid chiefly covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Islamabad. There, Hadid and her team were awarded a Murrow in 2019 for hard news for their story on why abortion rates in Pakistan are among the highest in the world.
Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
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