In HYDERABAD / DADU “I lost my home in the floods and now I’m worried that I won’t be able to continue my education,” 16-year-old Sohaila told Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai during the latter’s visit to the Kher Mori relief camp in Sindh’s Dadu district, on Wednesday.
The young girl, who shared her dream of becoming a doctor with the global campaigner for girls’ education, said she was happy when she was told that classes would be held for students at the camp, but was crestfallen to learn that they would only cater to younger kids.
“I want to go to school, but there is so much water. If there was less water, I’d even go through it. Now we are hearing that the flood waters will stay for five months,” a statement issued by the Malala Fund quoted the young flood victim as saying.
“I wish to study and become someone and do something for my parents who’ve done so much for us. It hurts me to see them in so much pain,” Sohaila told Malala, who stressed that all brave daughters of Pakistan had a right to complete their education.
Sindh Education Minister Syed Sardar Ali Shah promised the young girl that he would ensure that she receives all the support she needs to complete her studies and realise her dream.
After arriving in Pakistan on Tuesday, Malala and her father Ziauddin Yousafzai travelled to Johi — one of the worst-hit areas in Dadu — amid unprecedented security. Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho, singer and social worker Shahzad Roy and other officials were also part of the entourage. Even media access to the event was quite limited, for the sake of her security.
Johi was not only inundated by unprecedented rains but also hill torrents from Balochistan. But the people of this resilient community rallied together to raise a nearly-8km long dyke which prevented more water from entering the city and causing untold damage.
But despite the fawning protocol, similar to what was witnessed a few weeks earlier when Hollywood star Angelina Jolie arrived in the country, Ms Yousafzai interacted freely with women and children in the camp, even joining a group of girls who were engaged a colouring exercise. The girls then asked her to sign a poster they had made.
After their exchange, Sohaila and the Nobel laureate from Swat walked through the camp, hand in hand. Later, Sohaila recited a naat in front of a group of reporters and government officials. Shahzad Roy also chimed in with a few ditties, as the children at the camp clapped along.
Speaking to flood victims and officials, Ms Yousafzai said that it was imperative that aid be provided to all those affected without delay.
She stressed the need to take special care of children’s health and educational needs, as these issues tend to fall by the wayside when such emergencies befall a country.
Ms Yousafzai also met with representatives of aid organizations – the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Rural Development Foundation (RDF) – who briefed her on their relief efforts, being carried out in collaboration with the provincial government.
She also met with doctors and patients at the camp’s clinic.
According to the Sindh education minister, around 12,000 schools and 3.5 million children’s education had been impacted by these floods, a statistic that worried Ms Yousafzai.
Separately, during a meeting with Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, Ms Yousafzai highlighted how the education of all school-going children in the camps had been badly affected, but their morale remained high.
“The scale of the destruction is astounding and the psychosocial and economic impact on the lives of people, especially women and girls cannot be overstated,” the Malala Fund statement quoted her as saying.