Help Flood Victims…

13 Aug


It is not true if one claims that Pakistan as a country was ever perfect and free of problems. Earthquake in 2005 was an eye opener in terms of natural calamities and our capacity of handling disasters. The unavailability of proper disaster management with no resources allocated for such mishaps in anticipation has exposed how prepared are we to face challenges. But on a positive note, it also confirmed that we, as a nation, still had the germs of unity, brotherhood, and sacrifice. But at the same time, we all were concerned that the help should reach the victims in a transparent way, but later the picture media showed had given room for doubts, suspicions and mistrust among people regarding distribution of aid.

After a recent plane crash, floods hit Pakistan and brought havoc. The unimaginable happened and it left 20 million people helpless and miserable. The plight of those who are stranded and marooned without food, shelter and medicines is a nightmare. This “human crisis” has been declared the worst for Pakistan so far which is beyond the capacity of the government to handle. Global recession has minimised the scope of receiving enough international aid. USA has proved the biggest donor in this crisis and announced aid in different packages. Rest of the world is pledging slowly and hesitantly. But, it is sad to note that except recession the mistrust and previous corruption charges have forced the world giving second thoughts to their aid plans for Pakistan. Same happened at home where people are skeptical about the use of the aid and are not coming forward enthusiastically in comparison with 2005 crisis.

There is no mechanism so far evolved to ensure transparency in such cases and I agree to the point where doubts are stopping people and international community to help generously. But in this disaster where the economy of this country received a blow and the government seems handicapped in many ways when it comes to damage control and rehabilitating affectees, the role of international donor community becomes significant.

Eventually, it is the people who will suffer more. The need is to just focus on what we can offer to the affectees as individuals and a nation and should hope that the government will be able to remove this mistrust. Otherwise, the efforts and aid the victims need and deserve from the international community and Pakistanis will be lost.

Below is a statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: The flooding — Serious efforts are needed by the
authorities to restore the trust of the people and the international

It is reported in the Pakistani media that intentional breaches were
made in the protective embankments at Ghospur and Thorhee bands,
Sukkur district, Sindh province in order to protect the agriculture
lands of President Mr. Asif Ali Zardari Mr. Qaim Ali Shah, the chief
minister of Sindh province, Mr. Khursheed Shah, the federal minister
and other powerful person in the coalition government. The breaches
have affected the urban population of Sukkur district and its

adjoining areas where many places remain submerged.
It is also reported that Mr. Shahbaz Shareef, the chief minister of
Punjab province, and Mr. Nawaz Shareef, the opposition leader, have
made the same arrangements to protect their sugar mills in Jhang
district. The media also reported that in different districts, where
the flood was in full swing, the provincial ministers and land lords
of the Punjab province made breaches in the embankments to save their

This type of news reported in the local and international media are
the main cause of the indifference of the international communities,
as well as Pakistani citizens to pool their funds for the relief of
the affected population. A huge crisis of mistrust has been created
between the people of Pakistan and the authorities. It is also
observed that ministers from the all the provincial governments and
federal governments are visiting the affected areas for photo sessions
to score points against each other’s government.

The first phase of the floods in Pakistan immediately devastated the
lives of at least one third of the population of the country. The full
effects of this devastation are yet to be seen. Still, there is no
correct estimation of the losses that occurred during the first phase
of floods available because of the disruption in communications. There
are also some contradictory statements on the damage caused by the
floods; different ministries claim losses from Rs. 500 to 800 billion.
The slow and lethargic response of the government agencies, including
the armed forces to get the proper provision of relief to the victims
is creating more problems and will continue to do so when the second
phase of the flooding enters Punjab and the Sindh provinces from
Khyber Pakhtoonkha.

The people are still trapped and have been living on the road sides
and railway tracks without any shelter for many days despite the claim
of the federal and provincial governments that relief is being
provided. There are fears of an outbreak of vaccine-preventable
diseases like measles, polio and tetanus, diarrhoea, and Malaria.

The local experts and a UN spokesman said the country has suffered a
loss of about Rs250 billion in the agricultural and livestock sectors
alone and the flood recovery costs may run into billions of dollars.

The Minister for Food and Agriculture, Nazar Mohammad Gondal, said
that it is difficult to give an exact figure, but he agrees that the
loss of agriculture and livestock runs into billions of rupees. Over
100,000 cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep, horses, camels and donkeys have
been lost and 3,000 fish farms and 2,000 poultry farms destroyed
across the country.

The whole agricultural belt that includes Jhang, Bhakkar, Rajanpur,
Rahimyar Khan and Layyah districts in Punjab province has been
inundated. Sindh province has lost standing crops worth Rs95 billion
over 100,000 acres. Cotton and rice are the major crops destroyed by
the floods.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, over 325,000 acres have been submerged and
crops worth Rs29.6 billion destroyed. Over one million tons of wheat
stock kept in houses had been swept away.

According to dealers, the floods have caused a shortage of food items
and the prices of fruits and vegetables have increased by 25 to 50 per
cent. It is feared that the situation will persist for the whole year
until cultivation resumes in flooded areas.

The United Nations humanitarian operations spokesman Maurizio
Giuliano said: “The devastation to crops is immense. I think it’s
safe to say it will take some billions of dollars to recover. Even
though we don’t have estimates yet, I am referring to livelihood for
agriculture and farming to get back in shape.” Two million people
require shelter after fleeing flood-hit areas. Survivors face grim
conditions in tent cities and disease is flourishing in the unbearable

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, after flying over flood-hit
areas with diplomats, said that an estimated 15-20 million people are
believed to have been affected. Appealing for international help, he
said that we immediately need tents for shelter, food for survivors,
water purification plants and medicines for cholera, malaria and other
water-borne diseases.

This is the current situation of losses incurred by the recent first
phase of floods but the second phase is about to come which would be
more devastating as those bridges, dams, roads and embankments along
the rivers were already damaged or have become so dilapidated that
they will need many years to restore.

The various governments at every level should make coordinated
efforts to combat the havoc of the floods and work for the
rehabilitation of the affected masses rather than scoring points
against each other. The governments should also work to restore the
trust of the people to launch a vigorous campaign for donations from
the philanthropists and common persons. The people generally do not
believe the government agencies as being trustworthy, therefore all
political parties and the governments should work jointly for the
relief efforts.

For a web page showing pictures of the flooding please click here

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Posted by on August 13, 2010 in Tragedy/Crisis/Disaster


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