World News

Pakistan flood survivors struggle to save livestock

SUKKUR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Many Pakistanis displaced by the country’s biggest floods in decades are struggling to save their livestock, not just survive themselves.

For many villagers forced from their flooded villages and seeking refuge on the outskirts of the southern city of Sukkur, their flocks of sheep and goats and herds of cows and buffaloes are what guarantees they have enough to eke out a living.

“We are already poor, if these animals die it’s a big problem for us,” said Dilshad Ahmed, standing amid his flock of about 100 sheep beside a main road near Sukkur, a city in Sindh province.

Hundreds of thousands of cattle may have drowned in the floods, but the surviving animals are everywhere.

Herds of buffaloes tended by barefoot boys with sticks lumber down the road, oblivious to the traffic backed up behind them.

Even the most muddy, littered patch of wasteland has sheep and goats rummaging for food. Women make tea over smoky fires and children play amid herds of cows at roadside settlements.

In the morning, as the sun rises over the plains, men and boys take the animals out of town in a daily hunt for fodder. In the evening, they drive the animals back to their camps. Bigger animals are tethered to stakes driven into the ground.

“We don’t have enough money to buy fodder, we just have to let them graze on whatever they can find,” Ahmed said as a stream of brightly painted trucks rumbled past.

The animals were beginning to suffer, he said -- hardly surprising given the little land around for grazing. Stifling heat is also taking its toll.


Rich green rice fields cover most of the land that is not inundated and little grows on the ground in date palm plantations. That leaves little more than dusty roadsides and scrubby wasteland.

“We take them out to feed on open ground,” said Sohbat, an elderly man with a grey beard camped out with his family and his cows beside a highway toll booth.

“Sometimes people let us (graze the animals), sometimes they don’t,” he said as he and his wife milked a cow beside a stagnant pool of black water.

Some farmers said they would sell their animals if they could, but the bottom had dropped out of the market because of the floods.

“Everyone knows the situation and they know we’re desperate for money,” said Sohbat. “So they know they can pay as little as they want.”

A sheep used to go for up to 6,000 rupees ($60) but now fetches as little as 2,500 rupees ($24), said Ahmed. “Because they’re sick and weak people don’t pay so much,” he said.

If things got too bad, farmers could start selling some animals to buy fodder, said another herder.

“If we can’t feed them we can sell some to feed the rest,” said the man, who gave his name as Zulfiqar. “It’s so weak, it’s hungry,” he said, gesturing toward one of his cows.

The loss of livestock would be a disaster, said another villager.

“If they die we’ll have to sit by the road and beg,” Maula Bux said of his flock of sheep.

Editing by Alex Richardson