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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.

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 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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