Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Care International worker, from Gittisham, describes her three-week stay in flood-hit territory.
STRIKING images of devastation and tragedy confronted an East Devon woman when she arrived in Pakistan to help with flood relief efforts.
Charity worker Deborah Underdown, 27, says she is unlikely to ever forget the disaster scenes, after spending three weeks based in Islamabad.
The press officer for Care International had her stay in Pakistan extended by a week.
“There was so much work for me to do there,” she said.
“I was helping our Islamabad office deal with media enquiries.”
She took American, Australian and German journalists, including two film crews, to flood-hit areas.
The Australians were taken to the Swat Valley.
“We went to one area and it was strange, because you could see the tents we had provided on the right and a village six feet under water on the left,” said Deborah, of Gittisham.
“Some of the tents were pitched on a graveyard and young children were playing among the gravestones.
“Other children were swimming in dirty, stagnant water, which probably contained dead livestock and bodies of missing people.
“The children had nothing else to do.
“Some were swimming back to their former homes, trying to retrieve things, but they couldn’t salvage much.
“The power of the flood water knocked down buildings and belongings were washed miles and miles away.”
Deborah said: “It is hard to comprehend that, in one day, a person’s life could change so much.
“Much of the Swat Valley is still cut off, because bridges were swept away.
“I went there to deliver aid and it got to a point when you had to walk.
“We were distributing tents, kitchen sets and hygiene kits. Some of the people we gave them to had walked for four or five hours.”
The most touching moment of Deborah’s visit to Pakistan was when she met a young teenager, who could speak a little English.
He said: “I am not sad about losing my house. I am just sad because I lost my brother.”
Deborah learned the boy’s brother had been swept away while rescuing a young child.
“It is not just the physical things they have lost,” said Deborah.
“I am still supporting our Islamabad office from here, in London, and we are still raising money.
“Around 20 million people have been affected by the floods and eight million are homeless over a massive area of Pakistan.
“We will need to be looking at long-term needs. There is so much more needed than that initial life-saving assistance.
“Our work in Pakistan is going to continue for a long time.”
l Find out more about Care International by visiting www.careinternational.org.uk