Amid devastating floods, can 11-year-old Mukesh hold onto his dream?
By Fatima Shahryar
Mirpur Khas District, Sindh, Pakistan: 11-year-old Mukesh arrived home from school to find his family shocked and sitting outside their home – or at least what was left of it. “The rain had washed away all our home, including the doors,” he explains.
Mukesh is the eldest of five children -- his younger brother lives with a disability. His family like many others is seeking refuge in makeshift tents in the village of Rajar, Mirpur Khas district, Sindh, in Pakistan. Mukesh’s family lost everything as unprecedented floods devastated the country.
“My father told us that we have to get to the road, so we came here and we’ve been here for about a month,” says Mukesh. The days in the camp are long, gruelling and Mukesh is anxious to return to his studies. “I used to go to the school, but now there is no school, no teacher. I was in class three,” says Mukesh as he counts three slowly on his fingers. “I wanted to become a doctor as there is no doctor in our village and I thought I would be the first one.”
Mukesh’s father was the only breadwinner in the family making a living by selling fruit. But now he spends his days looking for work while his family hopes for some respite in the damp makeshift camp.
“We had a small house where we felt safe with our extended family,” says Kavita, Mukesh’s mother, “But now I worry for my children’s safety, and I keep calling them to stay closer to the tent. There is water all around and they are too little to take care of themselves,” says Kavita.
Along with the threat of drowning, the contaminated water surrounding the camp poses a risk of an outbreak of water-borne diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, dengue, and malaria as well as snakebites
Mukesh often helps his mother by looking after his younger siblings, keeping them away from danger. Together they play with other children in the camp. But their innocent laughter belies the tragic circumstances that brought them together here. And even in these small moments of joy, Mukesh can’t help but dip back into the memory of his life before all this sorrow -- the one where he had a dream and was doing everything he could to realize it. Now, all he can do is wait and hope for a better day tomorrow.
Relief and rescue operations are still extremely hard to carry-out – many roads remain cut off by floodwater, but despite these challenges UNICEF delivered emergency services and supplies worth over US$ 2 million in the past week. These included drinking water, water purification tablets, hygiene kits, medicines, vaccines, therapeutic nutritional supplements for children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and mosquito nets.
Much more is needed to help children and families displaced by floods overcome the hardship brought about by a climate disaster in the world’s fifth most populated country.
UNICEF is in Pakistan working with partners to help children and families. In the coming months we aim to reach them with essential support including lifesaving medical equipment, essential medicines, vaccines and safe delivery kits, safe drinking water and sanitation supplies, nutrition supplies and temporary learning centres and learning kits.