Archive for November, 2010

100 days have passed since the worst humanitarian crisis in modern history ravaged 1/3rd of Pakistan. We tried to contribute in our humble capacities; We had young men and men leaving work, studies and families to reach out to affected compatriots. We saw mothers crying and hugging children not of their wombs like they were their own, we saw fathers saving lives of children they did not have any blood relation to, we saw boys shedding tears and lending a helping hand to sisters, we saw sisters bringing water to brothers not related to them.

Irrespective of ethnicity, language, regionalism and religion– Pakistanis reached out to their affected compatriots. Irrespective of whys, what’s, when’s and how’s – We saw Pakistaniat during 2005 earthquake, Swat IDP crisis, Baluchistan earthquake and once again during 2010 flood relief efforts.

During our 35 deliveries so far, in 27 different locations — We once again felt Pakistaniat from Karachi to Khyber and beyond. From Canada & Australia to USA, UK and Japan – we saw humanity bonded. We thank the generous donors, who listened to our plight and gave us the opportunity to serve our country, with over 36 Million PKR (420,000 USD) raised and disbursed so far. We thank 100 odd young relief workers, who volunteered their time and energies with us. This by the way, is not the end, but the start of the tedious and more energy consuming efforts to rehabilitate millions who are still desperate for our help.

The youth of Pakistan was once again on the forefront, to deliver help to their countrymen in need. This disaster showed us hope, and like rightly said “From Floods, Pakistan’s New Generation Emerged”.

Lets live up to the spirit of Eid of Sacrifice and own the 7 Million still homeless; the 22 Million who still wait for us..

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Earlier, I wrote now the International Community should DO MORE! 

And to further the notion, today Gaurdian published guide to Pakistan v Haiti. Which Disaster Got More Aid?

Crossposting the statistics of International reponse to these two devastating natural disasters:

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First published on Dawn.

[ Read series of  my blogs published in Dawn regarding Pakistan Floods 2010 as we made regular deliveries to flood affected areas. Till date, have made 34 deliveries, worth 35 Million PKR (0.42 Million USD) helping around 44000 families. Previous ones can be read at: Hungry and homeless and Without a roof over their heads ]

Changing the mindset

We, Pakistanis, have a certain pattern of responding to national disasters. The kind which involves developing a bubble of patriotism and its quick bursting after a certain period that is only effective for short-term solutions. Such has been the case with the recent floods in the county. It has been nearly three months since the waters gushed through our lands and although water levels have receded, the biggest natural disaster in modern history still yearns to create the hype it deserved. There has been an exponential decrease of passion, donations and the will to rehabilitate the 20 million affected by the floods once the holy month of Ramazan ended.

We travelled to Dera Din Panah, in South Punjab to make another delivery of relief aid towards the end of October. We had already visited this particular area twice earlier, but continuous calls for help from the locals forced us to take note of the immediate need of the affectees. With supplies of blankets and warm clothes for about 1,000 families, we left for the area. With the onset of winter, the needs of the people have changed from ration and temporary shelters to warm clothes, self-sustaining rebuilding projects, prolonged medical care and permanent shelters.

As per our survey, 140 houses in basti Hyder Ghazi, 25 in basti Sattiwala, 21 in basti Bhagsar, 40 in Jamali, 18 in Mir Hassanwala, 30 in Samandari, 10-15 in basti Arra, 20 in Mai Sohagan and, around 100 houses in main city had been completely destroyed. Farmers, labourers and small-scale businessmen have taken loans from families and friends and have started rebuilding their houses, while those who couldn’t afford to are still waiting for some sort of relief.

The situation had changed in the past few weeks as only traces of water and its destruction remained. This town had been adversely affected, with nearly 99 per cent of it underwater. Locals told me only one street, which housed the mausoleum of Sufi Saint Syed Abdul Wahab Bukhari, known as Hazrat Din Panah, after whom the town was named, did not drown.

The complaints people had (from the shopkeepers to small farmers) were the same: not having enough money to start running their business again, not having enough money to prepare farmlands as the cost of per acre cost to water their fields had increased considerably as the canal irrigation systems had been damaged due to the floods. Local labourers also stated that ‘foreign’ NGOs were not involving local manpower for rehabilitation, which could be beneficial to the community and also provide these people with a steady source of income.

The solution, as they put it, was to start self-sustaining projects involving the local communities, like providing business-related aid to help small business owners, providing diesel or bearing the cost for preparing the farmlands of local farmers, stressing upon NGO’s to hire local laborers for rebuilding projects and other entrepreneurial projects which can be sustainable and will help the locals stand on their feet again.

This rehabilitation phase will cost us more and require more focus. We cannot let the notion of “we have already helped,” run unbridled through our masses and the media must play its role in creating this awareness. It doesn’t feel like we are in midst of one of the biggest humanitarian crisis of recent history. We must change this mindset, in whatever capacity we can.

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi is an aeronautical engineer, a poet and a social activist who is the founding force & chairperson of the Pakistan Youth Alliance. He can be found on Twitter and is available on Facebook.

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