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In Pakistan's Punjab Province, Widespread Damage, Distress And Desperation

NPR's Julie McCarthy is in southern Punjab province, one of the poorest parts of Pakistan. Floods have ravaged the region, destroying homes, stranding people, and damaging more than 20 percent of its cotton crop.

Earlier today, she sent us this photograph, along with a short missive:

The flooded roads of southern Punjab. We are now stuck mid-stream... The engine dead... Men pushing... Astonishing sunset.

In an interview with NPR's Robert Siegel, McCarthy said that it is almost impossible to travel around the province. As she tried to get near the Indus River, she saw hundreds of hungry, displaced persons -- but not one truck from a non-governmental organization (NGO) or government aid agency.

According to McCarthy, "people are supremely dissatisfied and they seem dumbstruck at some level."

People just struck me as being in shock.

They really feel that they are poor, and they are being ignored. No one is listening to them. No one is coming to see them. No one is coming to help them.

Many residents of the region, fearing looting, decided to stay near their homes -- many of which are mud huts, incapable of withstanding floods.

"They are in these pockets, in these islands that have removed them from their homes," she said. "So, they're living out in the blazing sun and the blazing heat by day, and by night they're under the stars, battling scorpions and hunger."

Large crowds are unsupervised. Displaced Pakistanis didn’t die in great numbers in the Southern Punjab at the flooding's onset.

But those who are braving makeshift boats and taking trucks over treacherous waters as they try to make their way back home are falling victim to drowning.

"It seems like one hardship is compounded on the other," McCarthy said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Gura
Based in New York, David Gura is a correspondent on NPR's business desk. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and he regularly guest hosts 1A, a co-production of NPR and WAMU.
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