At least 78 dead, over a thousand injured, more than 2,000 towns and villages completely or partially flooded, ten million people affected, two million in need of humanitarian aid, over 14,000 kilometres of roads damaged and 725 bridges demolished. These are a few figures on one of the most devastating flood disasters in Iran in recent decades. 25 of the country’s 31 existing provinces were affected by the flood from March to May.
When I was back in Iran at the end of July, the situation in many parts of the country was still shocking. Natural disasters like this one, wherever they occur in the world, mark the affected region for a long period of time. This is compounded by the fact that the government is completely overstretched, and responsibility is being shifted back and forth between different bodies.
Together with Hamid, where we had already stayed for a few days during our road trip, I set off for Pol-e Dochtar in the province of Lorestan in western Iran. While Hamid was supposed to practice as a radiologist there for one day, my day was packed with getting a picture of the current situation on site at over 40 degrees in the shade. The city was one of the worst hit a few months ago, so I did not have to be led around for long by an acquaintance of Hamid’s to become aware of the suffering of the people and the damage to streets and buildings. The further we approached the river, which had already returned to normal, the more piles of rubble piled up in the alleys and in front of the ruined houses.
We talked to many of the affected families to find out what would help them the most. As large groups of people kept gathering around the car as soon as we stopped, it soon became clear that once again not everyone could be helped and that a handful would have to be picked out. These are the most difficult decisions to make. How do you know which family needs help more than others? How do you know exactly how much a family is suffering and how needy it is? Where do you draw the line between “it is enough to get by” and “the living conditions are unworthy”?
Since the food supply was given and we are of the opinion that it is better to help a handful of families intensively than to pay 3 bags of rice to each of them in one street, we decided to give preference to those families which on the one hand contain very old family members and on the other hand have to care for a large number of children and infants.
In the end we took 1.194,83 € in our hands to equip 6 families with a new carpet. This may sound strange for a moment, why such a carpet is an enrichment, so let me explain it to you briefly. The Iranian houses and apartments are mostly very simple and spartanic built and furnished. They consist of a large room, which usually contains the kitchenette and in which the complete everyday life takes place, and a bathroom. In rare cases there is another room. This large room serves therefore as the bedroom of the whole family, as a children’s room, but also as a living room as well as a kitchen and dining room. In the center of this room are the carpets that Travel for Smiles was able to finance for the families concerned through your donations. Since there is hardly any furniture in the households and what little the families had was destroyed by the floods, these carpets serve as a mattress for sleeping, as a couch for relaxing during the day, as a playground for the children and as a table at which meals are served. It is therefore the place where the family comes together, and which makes a house or apartment a home.
We are very pleased that through your financial support we were able to ensure that six families affected by this catastrophe now have a more beautiful home.