A Trip to Cover Pakistan’s Destructive Floods, and What’s Left Behind
To get to the most affected areas, we hopped into a boat and took it out across the water. We were passing homes that had been half-submerged, villages where maybe one or two houses were still there. And in some of them, there were still either entire families or a single man who stayed behind to protect valuables.
What measures did you take to stay safe?
Health safety was one of our main concerns going into this. A few weeks into the flooding, malaria, dengue and other waterborne diseases were rampant. We were probably overzealous in applying mosquito spray, and because of the Covid risk, we also used masks when we were reporting in hospitals and the tented camps for people who had been displaced.
We bought all of the water we thought we would need in Karachi because sometimes even bottled water in those areas is contaminated. Also, a lot of oral rehydration salts. It’s about 115 degrees in the daytime here.
How did the photographers cover the area?
I worked with two incredible photographers, Kiana Hayeri and Saiyna Bashir, over the last two weeks. The photos illustrate — in a way that I think words cannot — the scale and the scope of the crisis and the personal devastation. In Dadu, especially, we went to villages where people were essentially marooned. Usually, I would conduct interviews. As I was doing that, Kiana and Saiyna beautifully photographed what life was like in these places — farming towns that had become islands.
The idea of home is a thread throughout the coverage. Was that something you chose to focus on?
That was definitely a theme that came up a lot. You can imagine how difficult that choice is. You can either stay in your home despite how difficult it has become, or try to leave and get closer to the aid efforts. I also wanted to understand what it was like for people whose lives, seemingly overnight, had changed so drastically. One night, your farmland is right outside your door, your cotton is about to be harvested. Then, within the course of a day or two days, you look outside and you’re in the middle of a lake. We were trying to understand the gravity of that.