Flood-hit Pakistanis celebrate Eid amid hopes

MEHMOOD KOT, Pakistan Sat Sep 11, 2010 7:43am EDT

Flood victims offer Eid-al-Fitr prayers in a makeshift mosque while they take refuge in a relief camp for flood victims in Sukkur in Pakistan's Sindh province September 11, 2010. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

Flood victims offer Eid-al-Fitr prayers in a makeshift mosque while they take refuge in a relief camp for flood victims in Sukkur in Pakistan's Sindh province September 11, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Akhtar Soomro

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MEHMOOD KOT, Pakistan (Reuters) - Having offered Eid prayers on Saturday in a tiny, shattered mosque, Mohammad Sadiq is firmer in his faith and determined to rebuild his life and home devastated by Pakistan's worst floods in memory.

A laborer in his early 30s, Sadiq looks at the calamity that affected lives of over 20 millions people as God's wrath to punish for "wrong-doings," but he is certain the blessings of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan would bring new happiness.

"We have lost everything in the floods - our home, livestock and all our belongings - but we are alive today to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr," he said, referring to the Muslim festival that marks the end of a month of fasting, and was celebrated in most of Pakistan on Saturday.

"We should be thankful to God for this."

As Sadiq spoke, nearly two dozens of his neighbors embraced each other to exchange greetings outside the mosque that was among the thousands of mud and brick-made structures damaged or destroyed in floods in Mehmood Kot in central Punjab.

"We are confident that good days will return soon," said Abdul Jabbar, a shopkeeper, who offered prayers in the same mosque.

Starting nearly six weeks ago, Pakistan's worst ever floods killed more than 1,750 people and inflicted nearly $43 billion worth of damage to infrastructure and agriculture, the mainstay of the economy.

The floodwaters are receding in many part of Pakistan, but millions of people are still living in camps, their houses destroyed and livelihoods lost.

"PAINFUL EID"

"Eid is for those who have everything. For us, away from our home and living like beggars in this makeshift camp, it means nothing," said Mukhtar Ahmed, standing outside a roadside relief settlement in Sukkur in Sindh.

"The government has done nothing to help us," he said, echoing a growing frustration among people becoming increasingly weary of the slow government response.

His is a common refrain, and sounds a bitter note for a holiday that is traditionally about home, family and faith.

The Pakistani government has been roundly criticized by its people for a sluggish and uncoordinated response, forcing international NGOs, foreign governments and the Pakistani military to pick up the slack.

Aid agencies have warned that millions of people are still at risk of death if emergency food and shelters are not provided.

Up to 3.5 million children could be in danger of contracting deadly diseases carried through contaminated water and insects, the United Nations has said.

But back in Mehmood Kot, those worries were for another day. Children played and enjoyed the festivities, mostly arranged by NGOs.

"I don't know who gave this to us but I have new clothes, bangles and also some money as an Eid gift," said a beaming Ayesha, as some other children swarmed a nearby balloon-seller.

"I am very very happy."

(Additional reporting by Akhtar Soomro; Writing by Augustine Anthony; Editing by Chris Allbritton and Jonathan Thatcher)

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