Insurgency, neglect hurt flood relief in Pakistani province

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Gandakha, Pakistan, Nov. 23Maryam Jamali should have been preparing for an economics exam. Instead, the teenager from the flood-hit Pakistani province of Baluchistan was helping organize postpartum clinics and shelter for people neglected by relief efforts.

Baluchistan is Pakistan’s largest and poorest province, plagued by under-development, bad governance, corruption, and a long-running insurgency. When catastrophic floods submerged vast swaths of Pakistan this summer, about 75% of Baluchistan’s population was affected, the largest proportion of any province in the country.

Yet recovery here has been slower, and residents say they are paying the price of years of neglect by the local and central government. Red tape is making it difficult for international aid workers to reach devastated areas. Much of the already dilapidated pre-flood infrastructure has been washed away, further hampering aid efforts.

People still wade in waist-high water or float on rafts through Baluchistan’s fields. On the pot-holed and suspension-shattering drive to Jamali’s village, there are deep ruts carved out by desperate locals to free trapped floodwaters. It is an uncomfortable car journey around the province’s flood-affected areas, though not so impossible or inaccessible as to be a reason for the slowness of aid.

It is a contrast to neighboring Sindh province, an agricultural, commercial, and manufacturing hub. At the height of the flooding, people in the Sindh city of Sukkur used boats on submerged roads. But pumps were brought in to remove water, and now there is little sign the city was ever flooded.

Baluchistan was not so prepared, despite disaster striking it often. There was severe flooding in 2010 and 2011. (AP)

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