Pakistani villagers brave hunger and snakes to protect their flooded land

The village of Karim Bakhsh in southern Pakistan is almost entirely under water after disastrous monsoon rains: few buildings are still standing, wheat silos are empty and poisonous snakes are everywhere.

Yet, unlike the tens of thousands of people who have fled their flooded homes across the country to take shelter elsewhere, several families stubbornly refuse to leave Karim Bakhsh.

Having no deed of ownership, they fear that opportunists will take advantage of their departure to settle on the land they have occupied for generations.
“We had property papers from the British colonial government,” certifies Intizar Ahmed, a 55-year-old farmer.

“But we lost them several years ago in floods like this. (Plus) we have no place to go,” he told AFP, standing on a spot. slightly elevated next to his almost completely flooded property.

Others fear that their cattle will die or disappear on the way if they leave. And this resource is far too precious for these extremely poor villagers to risk leaving behind.

“We have buffaloes, cows and goats (…) If we leave the cattle behind, they will be stolen,” said resident Shah Mohammad, 35.
He and his neighbors are struggling to find food for themselves but also for their animals.

For the moment, they still receive enough, according to him. But soon the wheat will begin to run out.

The aid provided by boat by humanitarian organizations is the only link with the rest of the country, for those who cannot or do not want to leave.
The village is drowned under muddy waters, which in places extend for more than a kilometer.

Residents wait in one of the few places still dry for a boat from the Alkhidmat Foundation, a Pakistani NGO, which moves slowly through the streets of the village covered with waist-deep water.
It is the first time in several days that they have received help.

The boat stops several times for the volunteers of the foundation to distribute tents, food and other basic necessities.
Every detour bears witness to the destruction wrought by torrential monsoon rains, which caused the worst flooding in Pakistan’s history.

Most of the houses and buildings are in ruins. The villagers desperately search for any equipment that would allow them to build a temporary shelter, to protect them from the rain and, when it appears, from the scorching sun.

“Our houses collapsed (…) We cut trees and use this wood to try to support what remains of our walls”, says Gul Badshah, 70 years old.

Maqbool Ahmed, another local, prepares for a lurking threat: poisonous snakes. He connects a small lamp to a car battery and places it on a pile of dirt.

“We turn it on at night to protect ourselves from snakes,” he says. “Sometimes cobras and vipers sneak up to where we are.”

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