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Archive for August 4th, 2010

Turning Grief into Action

AP Image

The news from Pakistan has been heartbreaking.

We have been engulfed with images of flood affected citizens wading through what was once their homes, fires from the violence and targeted killings in Karachi, and smoke billowing from cars destroyed by a suicide bombing in Peshawar, an attack that killed the chief of Pakistan’s Frontier Constabulary.

And that was just the last few days.

According to news agencies, Pakistan has issued new flood warnings, “as heavy rains are expected to inflict more misery on areas where at least 1,500 people have already been killed and 980,000 more have lost their homes,” reported Al Jazeera English. According to Nadeem Ahmad, chairman of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, about three million people were now affected by floods in the country – 1.5 million in the northwest and the same number in Punjab. While the disaster, labeled as “the worst flood in Pakistan since 1929,” had been focused in the country’s Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhuntkhwa provinces, media outlets reported that the flood began spreading to Punjab on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, or Doctors Without Borders), say the receding water is allowing more access to previously isolated areas, though the new flood warnings “could cause renewed problems.”

Spokesmen from the United Nations World Food Program have also told reporters that workers were “urgently trying to reach flood areas in the northwest cut off from food supplies.” Dawn quoted WFP’s Amjad Jamal noting,

You can imagine for five or six days floods have caused havoc in these areas. People have lost their food stocks. The markets are not up and running. Shops have collapsed. People are definitely in the greatest need of food. That’s what we fear. The need to rush to those areas which have been cut off for the past week to provide them with life-saving food.

The long-term impact of the floods on issues like health and livelihood are also significant. According to Dawn, authorities fear a breakout of water-borne diseases like cholera that could subsequently trigger a health crisis. And as the floods sweep away farm land and devastate livestock, farmers in the affected provinces stand to lose “millions of dollars,” noted Dawn. Moreover, the displacement of numerous Pakistani citizens caused by the disaster further compounds the country’s pre-existing Internally Displaced People (IDP) issue, [in March, I wrote that a million people remain displaced after the military’s operations against the Taliban last summer].

Given this enormous devastation, [as well as the wave of targeted killings in Karachi that have killed 47 people after the assassination of MQM’s Raza Haider], it is no bloody wonder that the country is pissed off at President Asif Ali Zardari, who is off on a jaunt around Europe while Pakistan is drowning. Regardless whether Zardari is needed to make decisions related to disaster relief or he is merely a figurehead, the decision to press forward with his tour comes across as callous and disconnected, and does not bode well for his already dismal popularity ratings (according to Pew Research Center’s poll, only 20% of those polled have a favorable view of Zardari, compared to 71% for PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif). In a piece for Dawn entitled, “While You Are (Perpetually) Away,” Shyema Sajjad emphasized,

Yes, so while I clicked on some pictures of you smiling with Nicholas Sarkozy, your children along your side, I also happened to come across pictures of some other families. They weren’t well-dressed and neither were they in France. They were crying, sitting in various parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. But then again, they are just a statistic right? I am not sure what the death toll was when you left but it has now crossed 1,400, with over three million affected. I understand discussing diplomacy and terror strategies are important but what about these people, sir? Are they really just a statistic for you? People with homes swept away and children drowned, can’t just be statistics.

Even British-Pakistani politicians Khalid Mahmood (from the Labour Party) and Nazir Khan have refused an invitation to meet the Pakistani President, who arrived yesterday for his five-day visit to the UK. Mahmood told Al Jazeera, “I just don’t feel I could bring myself to a meeting with somebody who has no ounce of respect for his own people, when these people are in dire straits.”

While this is certainly a time to be angry at our leadership, or lack thereof, it’s also a time to concentrate our energy towards helping the many people in need. And this is how you can do so [feel free to add more suggestions in the comments section]:

  • My company, ML Resources Social Vision, in partnership with Pakistani Peace Builders, launched Relief4Pakistan on August 13, a global grassroots donation campaign that leverages social media platforms to raise money for the flood affected families in Pakistan. See the R4P website here to donate (donations go directly to Mercy Corps’ first response relief efforts on the ground), or this blog post for more background.
  • [If you live in the United States] TextSWAT” to 50555 to donate $10 towards Pakistan’s flood victims. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has partnered with mGive again to allow mobile contributions for those affected by the disaster. Every $10 helps provide tents and emergency aid to displaced families. When prompted, reply with “YES” to confirm your gift.
  • Donate to Save the Children, which is on-the-ground and responding to the flood by preparing to distribute plastic sheeting for shelters and other household supplies and hygiene kits to families affected. At the request of the Pakistan Health Department and the World Health Organization, Save the Children has also deployed mobile health teams and ambulances to provide emergency medical treatment in the worst affected areas. Click here to donate directly to their efforts.
  • The International Rescue Committee‘s emergency team are currently working to serve Charsadda, Nowshera, Lower Dir and Swat. They are also conducting assessments in Kohat and Hangu, to better understand how those populations are being affected and what assistance they may need. In addition to providing these essential items and services, the IRC are also planning on providing livelihood activities, so as to help families get back on their feet as soon as possible. You can donate to the IRC by clicking here, or if you call 1-877-REFUGEE (1-877-733-8433), you can specifically earmark your donation for the Pakistani relief efforts.
  • Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, has a team on the ground and is providing emergency medical services. To donate to MSF, go to their website.
  • Oxfam International is also on the ground and hopes to raise $6 million for their immediate and long-term response to the disaster. You can choose to make a donation to your nearest Oxfam affiliate, (though Oxfam Australia, Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands and Spain all currently running direct appeals for the Pakistan floods). Click here for information.
  • As noted in the above post, the World Food Programme (WFP) is providing food to those affected by the flood. To donate to their efforts, see here.
  • The Edhi Foundation has a stellar reputation in Pakistan and provides emergency services to those in need. Click here to find and donate to your local Edhi office.
  • CARE International is also working on the ground in relief efforts. 90 cents of every dollar goes towards the cause, see here.

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