Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

© Wendy Marijnissen

The past week I’ve been traveling around in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or the former Northwest Frotier Provice. I wanted to see more of the devastating destruction of the flood waters and how people are coping in this already troubled region of Pakistan. Taliban militants  have kept Swat and Shangla in a grip of fear and with the military operations against the Taliban in the area, people living there have been through a lot already before the flood destroyed what was left of this region.

The destruction is very clear, houses barely left standing or simply washed away completely. Bridges collapsed and roads gone. The water has mostly receded and the rivers are back to their normal size, showing very clearly how far they have extended their usual border. It’s hard to comprehend and you can not really capture the size of this in single images.

And still people are resourceful and continue on with their lives. They build airlifts to transport goods from one way of the river bank to another. They create new roads up the mountains to continue traveling. The strength of these families is unbelievable and the greatest sight of all was seeing all the children in the morning going to school. Despite the threat of hardline fundamentalists this region is better educated then some other provinces in Pakistan. Girls schools are still being blown up as we speak, but that doesn’t stop them from going to school and learning how to read and write.

© Wendy Marijnissen

On the way we stopped in Nowshera, another badly hit area of Pakistan where the flood caused havoc all over. We visited a rural medical center that is being run by two lady health visitors and delivers about 7 babies on average per day.

After talking and showing us the clinic they pointed to a two day old baby in a cradle sleeping peacefully and told her amazing story. This baby girl was left in the clinic by her parents because she was a girl. The parents already had 12 children of which 8 girls and didn’t want this baby because of her sex and just left the clinic. Gender discrimination is still rife in Pakistan, especially in the rural areas and boys are preferable to girls. Despite the availability of different options of birth control, family planning is still difficult in these regions and families either don’t know about their options or refuse to take any measures.

Beghegul, one of the lady health visitors, already married and having two children of her own, decided to adopt this little girl and named her Shaza Hassan. She will take care of her as if it’s her own child and Shaza at least now has a chance to a bright future.

You can see more of my work on the aftermath of the floods on my website. The gallery will be updated regularly so do check in once in a while to see new images

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