Pakistan flood story 9: The fight to save farm animals...

Along the roads to Karachi runs a seemingly endless, heartbreaking stream of people heading from their flooded villages towards the city. Many refugees have sent their women and children ahead on trucks and are following behind on foot with whatever animals they were able to save.

In his Wednesday post, Chris Anderson wrote, "I am shocked at how many livestock have perished... With agricultural land ruined for perhaps a year, and livestock lost, the short term prospects for these people are bleak indeed."

80% of the flood affected population relies on agriculture and animals for their livelihoods. Around 1.2 million livestock and 6 million poultry have died throughout the country. The hundreds of thousands of animals that have survived are in urgent need of emergency fodder, shelter and veterinary support.

So it's no trivial act that the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), in collaboration with the Karachi Animal Hospital, organized a relief mission to Thatta and Makli in Sindh to provide veterinary treatment to the flood’s animal victims.

The team included veterinarians Dr. Zulfiqar Haider Otho and Dr. Shalla Hayat of the Karachi Animal Hospital, Baqai veterinary students Mashood Ahmed, Mohammad Saifullah and Suroop Chand, volunteers Francis Liaquat Khushi, Emmanual Liaquat Khushi, Benjamin Khushi and Viyay Arif Massieh, and PAWS co-founders Maheen Zia and Mahera Omar.

Again and again PAWS team members spotted men huddled over their collapsed animals, eventually having to leave them behind. Some were trying to help their baby buffaloes back on their feet, but the young animals simply couldn’t keep up with the rest of the herd. There were even reports of people flinging their collapsed cows and buffaloes over the bridge on the Thatta – Sujawal road and into the river water.

On reaching the Thatta – Makli area, the PAWS team spent the day providing veterinary treatment to injured or sick buffaloes, cows, goats and other animals. People eagerly pointed the injured or sick animals in their vicinity. They were extremely grateful for the help -- they cannot afford to lose even one of their animals.

There are over 300,000 animals around Makli for which there is an extreme shortage of fodder (wheat straw) -- it's been either washed away or damaged by silt. With so much farmland inundated, both people and animals have lost a vital source of food.

It was a hot day, with temperatures rising to 40 degrees Celsius. Women, children and small animals huddled under every inch of available shade. A baby buffalo and an old woman took refuge in the shade of a small thorny devi bush. Smaller animals like goats and chickens were generally under the shade of charpais (beds). There was even a duck under one.

Men had taken their livestock out to graze in nearby fields, returning later in the evening. Women walked far to the nearest watering hole to fetch murky water for their families, and for the smaller animals that were too young to walk to the water themselves. We saw a woman by the roadside pouring water on her buffalo’s head to keep it cool.

The care and concern of the people for their animals was evident wherever the team went. Some hadn’t received any relief goods from the government authorities themselves, yet were busy making sure their remaining animals survive.

At least seven trucks of fodder are required to be sent in daily to feed the animal population around Thatta and Makli. Each truck will cost around Rs. 80,000 ($934 USD). A supply chain of food has to be set up on a war footing to prevent starvation amongst the remaining livestock, which are a valuable source of income and draught power for the people. For many poor refugees from small farming communities, their livestock is their only remaining capital.

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Adapted from PAWS blog post

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(posted by Jane Wulf)