As the devastating floods sweep through Pakistan, people are losing homes, belongings, livestock, livelihoods and, sadly, in some cases their lives. Oxfam is working in a number of flood-affected provinces, including Sindh, providing people with clean water, sanitation, hygiene supplies, and support to livelihoods.
One of Oxfam's activities in parts of Sindh is to provide 20,000 families (with an average of seven people per family) affected by the flood with cheques worth 5,000 rupees (around €44) to help support them through the next two to three weeks. The cheques are order cheques, so people don't need to have a bank account.
A day or so after registration people receive their cheques. First, people are divided into groups so large groups are not waiting around. Starting with older women and women who are pregnant, this way the most vulnerable can been seen first, whilst other groups can go away and return later, saving them from all from waiting a long time.
Information sessions are then held for smaller groups of 25. Most people have never seen a cheque before. They are given information about what a cheque is, and where they get their cheque cashed. They are also told how they can make a suggestion or a complaint, and where to go for help – if they have a problem they know they can go to the camp committee for help.
Waqar Ahmad, from Oxfam partner PDI (Participatory Development Initiative) explains the process to a group of women.
This information is also written in the local language and placed on a wall where everyone can see and refer to it.
In Sindh, temperatures stay around 45ºC for much of the day. Wherever possible shaded and cooler areas are found for people to sit and wait for their cheques.
During registration, people are issued with a token to show that they have been registered. They bring this token to the cheque distribution along with their identity cards. In the rare cases (less than 5%) where people do not have identity cards, they authorise others to accept the cheque on their behalf. Identity cards are required for the bank to cash the order cheques.
The tokens and identity cards are checked against the list of people registered to receive cheques that day. Although everyone at the camp has been registered to receive cheques, others not affected by the floods might arrive hoping to receive one too.
The register contains information such as name, number of people in the household and identity card numbers. The cash amount has been based on the Pakistani government's calculation for how much a family needs to meet their basic needs for about two weeks for a family of seven, and with agreement with the community. Where a household is much larger, two cheques may be issued.
Oxfam is working closely with local partner PDI, and distributions are run jointly.
Gulge receives her cheque whilst behind her Razia waits to receive hers. Most people are reporting that they are spending the money on food, medicine, medical fees and repaying the debts they incurred when travelling from their flooded villages to a place of safety.
"When the flood came we were just sitting in our home. The water came very fast. We could only save our children, ourselves and some clothes – we didn't even have time to save some crockery and other things. We lost everything… our home, livestock."
Razia is particularly concerned about the health and welfare of her children. "At the moment they are not sick but they are very weak because they don't have enough food to eat."
She is planning to spend some of the money on buying more food for them.
When asked whether she would have preferred to receive food rather than a money, Shahul explained: "We prefer to get cash because you can buy food with it, but we could also get other necessities like medicines and food for the buffalo."
Some people, are trying to save some of the money for "… their future plans, for when the water level goes down in their village. They want to use this money for transportation. Others have health issues so they're planning to visit the doctor. The people are really happy to receive this money because they need money in their pockets to solve some of their problems.
"Oxfam decided to provide cash rather than food for several reasons. One, people have been displaced to cities, where food is readily available. It provides people with choice about how they spend their money, like on medical treatment and clothes."
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