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My diary (log) was published in December issue of  Media Voice Magazine (Page 66-77)

Text version:

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi and his friends took a journey from Islamabad to the flood-affected South Punjab with relief materials on October 23. From Nature’s fury and terrorism to snack stopovers, his log speaks of varied experiences.

1700hrs (October 23, 2010)
I was en-route Lahore with three volunteers to make a delivery of relief items to flood affected South Punjab. Hammid Ali, an MBA student, Shakeel Ahsan, an HR executive and Hammad Atta, a telecom engineer were with me on the trip started from Islamabad. We would meet more volunteers in Lahore where we will have to load three trucks with relief with relief items overnight and start our journey early morning the next day.

2000hrs (October 23, 2010)
Talking about the spot-fixing scandals of Pakistani cricketers on the Motorways we had a snack-break. Everyone had his own perception of what’s happening with Pakistan cricket, and same variation of perceptions existed about socio-political problems that we were facing. One wondered, if we will ever find common grounds to move forward.

2300hrs (October 23, 2010)
Markets and hang-out places remained open till late night in Lahore unlike Islamabad which closes down by 9pm. Lahori boys get hyper on weekends and horde the roads on their bikes. Driving through the haphazard traffic wasn’t an easy task. We finally reached the whole-sale bazaar near railway station in Mughalpura, where our trucks were ready to be loaded.

0200hrs (October 24, 2010)
Trucks were loaded. More volunteers arrived from Lahore. A US –based filmographer, Yasmin accompanied us to make a documentary. We had earlier asked for two trucks. One more truck had to be arranged, which demanded huge amount. Although I was angry at the truck-driver who was being unreasonable and cashing in on our emergency need, we had no other option but to hire him.

0500 (October 24, 2010)
Trucks were on their way to Daira Deen Panah, a town adversely affected by monstrous flood water. We had time to kill, and we decided to visit Data Sahib (mausoleum of Hazrat Ali Hajveri, the famous Sufi saint). This tomb recently faced the brunt of a terrorist attack killing many. Many malangs/wanderers were sitting around the tomb, and the atmosphere was simply ecstatic. After paying homage to Data Sahib, we then had to have sizzling breakfast of halva-puri in ‘andaroon’ Lahore (old Lahore which was a walled city).
 

0800 hrs [24th Oct, 2010]
We are on the way to South Punjab now. In the coaster with loud music playing ‘chal way Bulleya othay chaliyeh’ singing, chatting and some playing cards. We are total 12 relief workers. I and Maryam were talking about how after Ramadan, donations have dwindled and people are not donating open-heartedly. The initial phase of immediate relief did not require as much money as the rehabilitation phase. 
 
1500 hrs [24th Oct, 2010] 
After 10 hours journey, we reached Kot Addu, whose town Daira Din Panah we had to hit. We had been here twice before, but then it took 26 hours as roads were blocked and bridges dismantled. Situation had changed as now only traces of water and its destruction remained. Our trucks were still 2 hours behind and again, after having a delicious lunch we visited the shrine of Syed Abdul Wahab Bukhari, known as Deen Panah, on whom the town was named. Locals told us how flood waters could not drown one street in their town, that was, where the shrine was located. 
 
1600 hrs [24th Oct, 2010]
We started making lines of flood affectees, our one team was here yesterday to distribute coupons in affected families. Now we called all of them, and asked the head of families to stand in a line. This impossible process of filtering out genuine affectees, trying to make others, who did not have the coupons understand that we cannot accommodate them due to our limited capacity was tedious and heart wrenching. Female volunteers made females stand in a line, where as, male volunteers made males stand a triple line to ensure distribution without hassle. 
 
1700 hrs [24th Oct, 2010]
Now our trucks had arrived and we started the by-hand distribution process. Each victim had coupons signed and counter signed by us, along with his National ID card to ensure genuine-ness. This process continued till it was dark and after 3 hours of distribution, reaching out to 1000 families we called it a day.
 
2100 hrs [24th Oct, 2010]
We called this delivery, the mystical delivery as once again we decided to visit tombs of Shah Shams Tubrez and Shah Rukh ne Alam in Multan after having dinner at Pizza Hut. The driver and conductor with us strangely took interest in trying ‘how a pizza tastes like’. We went to the tombs, which are located adjacent to each other and had never seen such tight security ever before. Police officials told us, this area was under threat from terrorists, who had been on ‘blast a shrine’ spree. An old woman sat infront of Tubrez’s shrine, asked us to go back to Lahore and pay homage to Data Ali Hajveri on her behalf. 
 
2300 hrs [24th Oct, 2010]
Now we were on our way back to Lahore. On our minds, the sad faces of victims who had nothing left. Schools, hospitals, homes – all washed away. Another thing that continually became a topic of discussion was our nations reaction to national disasters which showed a ‘sudden burst of patriotism and then relative numbness’. Such was the case with Pakistan floods 2010. When the disaster struck, immediate emergency relief aide needed was nothing compared to what’s needed for rehabilitating 22 Million affected souls. Regular stops were made on juice corners, truck driver hotels and pan-shops on our way back as we had no deadline to meet. Most of us were so exhausted that we went to sleep in our coaster. Others continued to ‘fight’ on issues such as cricket, Zardari, US involvement in our internal affairs and what not.

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi is an aeronautical engineer, a poet and a social activist who is the founding force & chairperson of Pakistan Youth Alliance(http://www.pya.org.pk/). He can be found tweeting @Ali_Abbas_Zaidi (http://twitter.com/#!/Ali_Abbas_Zaidi) & is available on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/aliabbaszaidi

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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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As I retweeted this yesterday: RT @Ali_Abbas_Zaidi Donation/victim received after 2 weeks of appeal ~ Haiti : USD 157.16 & Pakistan : USD15.24 #Pkfloods and my subsequent talks with British, American and other International donors, and their “reservations” which only cemented when I was interviewed by Voice of America yesterday on the link between Pakistan’s foreign policy & relief-aide for 20 Million human beings (this time Pakistanis) dying due to neglect.

To link Pakistan’s foreign policy, as guided by some super-power’s interests in the region and their “bombing to stone-age” threats, isnt exactly humane . There is no politics in human-lives, and to be brutally honest, in the last 20 years, foreign policy of Uncle Sam has caused more damage and is subjected to most-hate across the globe. If disaster of this magnitude strikes USA, would it be humane to say: “Oh, you bombed Iraq for WMD’s that you couldnt find, thats why we aint giving you aide to save your dying citizens (humans)”.

Pakistan has a been a frontline-ally in the war against terrorism and has borne more damage than anyone else, of civilian/military casaulties and financial losses due to security situation. And we kept on hearing “DO MORE” from International community, like 30000 dead Pakistanis (including top-notch Generals, politicians, religious figures) werent enough. Anyways, thats debate-able as previously said, if geo-strategtic politics come into consideration, some of the ‘super-powers’ have caused more damage on ground, to humanity than Pakistan. So, now its our turn and I dont give a tiny-rats ass if my leaders say it or not, but I urge the International Community to DO MORE. To DO-MORE, this time not for your interests in the region or your-cold wars with other super-powers, DO MORE for humanity.

Hafsa Khawaja, writes in her blog:

When earthquake hit Haiti this January 2010, the world rose in unison to help the victims of the deadly shake with many nations generously chipping in to donate for the people and governments munificently sending billions of dollars of aid and displatching relief teams to the country.

But today, when Pakistan has been hit by the most devastating floods in its history, which have been termed as “the greatest humanitarian crisis in recent history with the number of people suffering possibly to exceed the combined total in three recent megadisasters – the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake” by the UN, it seems that the world has started to suffer from a ‘donor fatigue’ or has intentionally closed its eyes and ears to the cries and pleas of the flood-hit Pakistanis.

While it is true, that the number of people killed in the Haitian Earthquake were more than those killed in the floods but according to statistics and figures available it can be known that around 20 million have been affected, thousands injured or left homeless with their families separated from them, over 722,000 houses damaged or destroyed, 70,000 children at a risk of dying of malnutritioon and around 6 million can lose their lives in the second expected wave of death likely to be caused by a combination of lack of clean water, food shortages and water-borne and vector-borne diseases.

It has become apparent that those in other countries seem to ignore the current state of people in Pakistan considering the type of image that is portrayed of the country by much of the Western media – of a terrorist and barbaric nation that only breeds intolerance and extremism despite the fact that it is the single most nation that has bore the brunt of terrorism the most.

But some like Liz Borkowski have come to realize that the catastrophe is not being met with the appropriate response as it should. She has written a post on why the floods here are not receiving as much aid and attention as Haiti. Writing as :

“The UN has requested $459 million for emergency relief and has received or gotten commitments for 35% of that. The majority of that has come from the US and UK governments reports Nathaniel Gronewold of Greenwire.  Aid agencies report that responses from individual US donors have been slow, though.

On the list of possible factors behind the lag in individual US donations, Gronewold starts with “public opinion of Pakistan” and cites a June CNN poll showing “78 percent of Americans hold mostly unfavorable views of Pakistan.” I’d like to think people can hold an unfavorable opinion of a country but still be willing to help its citizens get food and water after a natural disaster; maybe when it comes to donations, though, decisions aren’t entirely rational.

I expect the slow pace of donations is mostly a function of less media coverage (compared to the Haiti earthquake). It’s not like the major news organizations are failing to cover Pakistan’s disaster at all, but so far I don’t think I’ve seen many stories about individual families’ struggles – and those are the pieces that spur donations. ” 

One UN assessment in the province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) found: “37% of women in households surveyed were consuming less food than men, while 50% of households reported having no food for an entire day.”

The UN asked for $460 million to fund an emergency response. So far, donors have contributed or pledged $148 million, or 32% of the total.   The top donors are the United States ($75,621,599), the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund ($26,595,962) The United Kingdom ( $40,235,085 ) Denmark ( 26,595,962 ) and Private individuals and organzations ($10,510,184).

 After visiting flood-ravaged areas of Pakistan, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “In the past I have visited the scenes of many natural disasters around the world, but nothing like this.”

Approximately, 1/5 th of Pakistan is under water. 

Elizabeth Ferris at ReliefWeb has prepared an excellent analysis and report on the comparison between the Haiti Earthquake and Pakistan Floods, compiling a data as follows:

Haitian earthquake Pakistan flooding
Date of disaster 12 Jan 2010First OCHA Situation Report: January 12 Late July 2010 (First reports of flash floods in Baluchistan on July 23, floods in KPK starting around July 26/27)First OCHA Situation Report: July 29
National population 2009   10.2 million 166.1 millionii
Deaths   220,500iii 1,539iv
Injured   Over 300.000v 2,055vi
Displaced Est. 1.8 million (1.3 within Port-au-Prince, 500.000 leaving Port-au-Prince) vii Est. 6 million in need of shelter(August 23)
Total affected/as percentage of total national population 3 million (29.4 %)ix 17.2 millionx (10.35 %)
       
Houses destroyed/damaged    105.000/208.000xi 1,226,678 (August 23)xii
Schools destroyed/damaged    1,300xiii 7,820xiv
Hospitals destroyed/damaged    50xv 200xvi
Original UN Flash appeal launched     15 January: xviiUS $ 575 million  11 August: xviiiUS $ 460 million
International pledges 2 weeks after flash appeal as percent of total appeal     82 %xix   57 %xx
Flash appeal funded 100 %  16 February (35 Days)xxiOn Feb 18 revised Humanitarian Appeal is launched requesting US $ 1.4 billion for 1 year (includes the $575 Million of the flash appeal)
US pledges    US $ 211.6 millionxxii (part of the extended 1.4 billion US $ appeal)   US $ 150 millionxxiii (August 23)
Appeal by International Federation of the Red Cross/Crescent Society      US $ 103 million US $ 74 million
Number of tents/plastic sheets distributed 3 weeks after     10,545/11,390 (February 3)xxiv 109,500/72,200 (August 23)xxv
% of displaced receiving tents/tarpaulins (after three weeks)      1.2 % 3.0 %
Donation per affected person received after 2 weeks of flash appeal      US $ 157.16 US $ 15.24
Role of US military Deployed 22,000 troops,58 aircrafts,15 ships; oversaw airport operations,rehabilitated the harbor,distributed aid, hospital ship 15 helicopters,as of August 24 the U.S. military had delivered 1.5 million pounds of relief supplies and food,and helicopters had rescued or transported about 6,500 people.xxvi
Health concerns  Traumatic injuries,including crushing Injuries,high needs for surgery,  infections Water-borne illnesses (diarrhea, cholera),skin-disease,acute respiratory disease
Protection concerns Trafficking of children;gender-based violence in camps,generalized insecurity Early reports of separated families, a few landmine victims,discrimination against lower castes, women-headed households
Shelter concerns Land tenure issues, rubble clearance Land markers washed away by floods, mud removal
       
Political concerns Interrupted Haitian election timetable,governance questions and relief effort; Potential strengthening of fundamentalist groups,destabilization and delegitimization of government
Economic concerns 70 % of Haiti’s GDP is generated in the Port-au-Prince area which has been most heavily impacted by the disaster, massive destruction of infrastructure Massive destruction of infrastructure, 3.2 million hectares of standing crops have so far been damaged or lost;widespread loss of livestock
Logistics Destroyed airport, harbor, roads.Generally bad infrastructure;Particular logistics difficulties in Port-au-Prince and surroundings Destroyed roads, bridges;some areas only accessible by helicopter;20% of the country flooded
Total GDP 2009 xxvii    US $ 6.5 billion US $ 166.5 billion
GDP per capita 2009 nominal    $733 $1,017
Estimated Damage    US$ 7.8 billionxxix Est. US $ 15 billionxxx
Estimated Damage as percentage of GDP    119 % 9 %
Reconstruction Pledges March 31 – Donors pledge US $ 9.9 billion of which US $ 5.3 billion is pledged over 2 years (requested US $3.9 billion). Aug. 22 – World Bank US $ 0.9 billion Asia Development Bank US $ 2.0 billion (loans)
Corruption Perception Index 2009 (out of 180)    160 139
HDI 2009xxxii (out of 182)    149 141
Media stories 10 days after the disaster xxxiii Well over 3,000 stories in both print and broadcast media respectively by day 10 and by day 20      320 broadcast news stories and 730 print news stories
Top 10 donors (pledges) Venezuela US$ 2.417 m Inter-American Development Bank US$2.000 mUSA US$ 1.152 mEuropean CommissionUS$ 567m

IMF US$ 436 m

Spain US$ 427 m

World Bank US $ 399 m

Canada US $ 387 m

InterAction members

US $ 322 m

(Donor’s Conference) xxxiv

USA US $161.9 m Saudi Arabia US $114.4 mUK US $108 mEuropean Commission US $93.5 m

Private Donors US $84.2 m

Germany US $32 m

Australia US $31.8 m

CERF US $26.6 m

Norway US$ 14.8 m

Japan US$ 14.4 m

(Flash Appeal) xxxv

 So why this difference? When over eighty international artists collaborated for the song ‘We Are The World’ for Haiti, why have not international celebrities other than a few (George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Ashton Kutcher) and sportsmen spoken about or rallied for the distressed and hopeless people of Pakistan who now neither have nothing to look back to nor a future to look to until people help them? If Haiti was poor, it should be remembered that Pakistan too is a developing country with rsising poverty and inflation. Does there not even a speck of sympathy and empathy reside in our hearts anymore? Why such slim coverage of this catalysm that has struck a nation already struck by many jolts?

As of 1st Sept, 2010 – Pakistan has so far received aid-committment of 984.52 Million USD (ONLY) from International Community — PLEASE DO MORE!

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi

 

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Article published in Indian Newspaper Express Buzz

First Published: 29 Aug 2010 11:24:00 AM IST Last Updated : 28 Aug 2010 06:51:18 PM IST

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi, 24, has not slept for over 24 hours. It is a day after the UN declared Pakistan’s floods a bigger disaster than the 2004 Asian tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and the Haiti earthquake combined. Hundreds have died, millions are homeless, and Zaidi is making his ninth delivery of food packets in south Punjab for 1,500 families.

He is the founder of Pakistan Youth Alliance, a youth-based and youth-run organisation that started in 2007 after emergency rule. “It aims to create socio-political awareness in the country,” says Zaidi. Their network extends across and outside Pakistan and has more than 20,000 members.

The group has organised and completed 120 events worldwide, including walks, vigils, protests, concerts, relief work, seminars and art for change competitions. “We have reached out to 15,000 families with immediate relief aid and have managed to raise over 12 million rupees from the streets, by begging,” says Zaidi.

Most of PYA’s members have impressive academic records. Zaidi is an aeronautical engineer, poet and columnist. Then there is Maryam Kanwer, 26,

co-founder of the organisation and a teacher and researcher; Maryam Noor Malik, 21, a medical student; Husham Ahmed, a research consultant with a degree in electrical engineering and Shakeel Ahsan who is an MBA student. These are just a few of them.  

“We started work for flood affected even before it became a disaster of unparalleled nature,” says Zaidi.

It has been physically exhausting and emotionally taxing. “After visiting flood-hit areas and having personally experienced the situation from Pakhtunkhwa to south Punjab, I can easily say this is the worst disaster to hit Pakistan,” says Zaidi. “For example, last time I went to Nowshera the locals told me how they found water containers floating on flood water. When they opened them, there were babies inside. Mothers who were about to drown in nearby villages had put their little ones inside it.”

“Similarly, we hear of how water levels started to rise while people were sleeping and they could not save their five-year-olds, how everything they had was washed away. People are angry. They complain of no prior warning, no evacuation plan and no disaster management by the government.

“The situation is chaotic. Children face skin diseases, mothers fight each other to snatch more food for their

babies, fathers are turning desperate to keep their kids alive. We hear of sex for food and parents stealing food,” says Zaidi. “Children live in the midst of snakes, mosquitoes, hunger — dreaming of a normal life.”

“Everything has been destroyed — schools, mosques, hospitals. Infrastructure has been rendered useless. I haven’t seen anything like this. During the Swat crisis (when the Pakistan offensive against Taliban left millions homeless), people were hopeful that they would go back home and start a normal life. But here, they have nothing to go back to. Nothing is left.”

Zaidi says the government “should have been pro-active, instead of reacting the way the tide turns.”

Foreign aid and NGO support have been helpful. And Zaidi has heard of some India-based groups helping flood victims in Pakistan. “It makes my heart warm,” he says. “I would love to collaborate with such youth groups.”

“I’ve always dreamt of working with an Indian youth organisation, to spread the message of love and tolerance. Extremists and war-mongers in India and Pakistan must realise war can never be a solution. We need to feed our people, for God’s sake, we need to provide them shelter and clothes.”

Zaidi has been dreaming of a better world since he was a child. His email address is damanwiddaplan@hotmail.com (the man with a plan). “I thought I do have THE plan,” he laughs. PYA seems like a workable one

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Link: http://www.correiobraziliense.com.br/app/noticia182/2010/08/07/mundo,i=206500/O+DILUVIO.shtml

“This is the worst disaster in Pakistan’s history. More rains are expected over the weekend, which could hamper the work of humanitarian aid. Anyway, I’ll lead a team on the trip to the city of Risapur in the district of Nowshera……. We will take trucks with donations to local residents”

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Crossposted from The Dawn Blog:

Pakistan has been through a lot in the last decade. We have had Taliban displacing millions, tremors leveling complete settlements and floods washing away our cities. But it is the current disaster that by far surpasses all. Amidst these natural and man-made disasters, I witnessed something positive, something which gives me hope. I saw unity, selflessness in Pakistanis who reached out to their fellow citizens irrespective of linguistic, religious and regional boundaries.

The Pakistan Youth Alliance (PYA), a youth-based organisation that comprises volunteers who want to create awareness and want to be the change that everyone talks about, started fundraising for the flood victims two weeks ago. So far we have made three deliveries to the worst-hit region, Nowshera and its surrounding towns; regular deliveries to relief camps will continue until the flood-waters recede. This week, three more deliveries to Rajanpur, Muzaffargarh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be made simultaneously.

We made trips to Nowshera last week where families were living in government schools that had been turned into relief shelters. We reached Ziarat Kaka Sahib on August 3 to find out how some locals found water coolers floating in the water, with babies inside them. Even as we made our way to the camp, a heavy downpour raised sirens of another potential flood.

//

 Video of stampede in Nowshera: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150236940350177

I share a special bond with the region – I studied at the PAF Academy Risalpur in district Nowshera for four years and most of the people who lived in the region were reasonably well-off, owning small- to medium-sized businesses. I met an old acquaintance from my university days whose business was completely destroyed. It was also in our first food delivery that we witnessed a stampede as women, desperate to feed milk to their babies started fighting over the supplies.  The worst hit cities of Mardan, Nowshera, Swabi and Charsadda had hosted the IDPs from Swat when nearly three million people were displaced due to military action in 2009. The Pashtun, known for their bravery and determination, are once again being tested to the core.

People at the relief camps seemed agitated by the authorities and complained of no proper evacuation plan when the flood was about to hit their vicinity. One such victim, Bano lost her husband, 5-year-old son and could not even save her ID card when water-level rose at 3 am that morning. According to locals, the Army, Air Force and other institutions had been evacuated three days ago, while the residents were left to survive in the monstrous floods.

After years of experience in relief work and delivering relief aid by hand well worth over Rs 10 million (all collected from streets, by literally begging in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad), I have realised how some of the aid being sent is also sometimes not needed, with those items being sold in black market on prices much higher than normal. Relief workers must conduct assessments of the region and only take those items needed instead of assuming what’s needed.

The monsoons will not end anytime soon and even if the rains do subside, there is still rehabilitation work that requires billions of rupees. But we cannot give up hope – trust me, we will see this through just like we have with other calamities that have hit our country.

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi is the chairperson/founder of Pakistan Youth Alliance who tweets @Ali_Abbas_Zaidi and is available on Facebook as Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi. He can also be reached at damanwiddaplan@hotmail.com

Pictures can be viewd at: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=197961&id=125954437061

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