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Last modified on Wednesday, 23 February 2011 18:00

Pakistan Flood Victims Still Desperately Need Help

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24 February 2011, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The following article by Roshaneh Zafar, the founder of the Kashf Foundation, and Susan Davis, the president and CEO of BRAC USA, was published on the Forbes Corporate Social Responsibility Blog by Frederick E. Allen.

Imagine if Hurricane Katrina struck all the states from Florida to Massachusetts and massive floods washed away homes and businesses, destroyed roads and bridges, and devastated the lives of tens of millions of Americans. How quickly would we respond to the urgent need to provide short term relief and long term rehabilitation to the victims? We know the answer. There would be wall-to-wall daily media coverage with stories of devastation and emergency response, and a clarion call to Americans with direction on the most effective way to help those in need.

Last summer, the equivalent disaster happened in Pakistan. The magnitude of the flooding was so large that it left 20 million people displaced and 6 million shelterless. About 1.2 million hectares of standing crop worth $3.3 billion were destroyed. With the flood waters now mostly gone, the victims have returned to debilitated and uninhabitable homes with their belongings swept away.

In the face of such a dire assessment, the clarion call is being answered by the women and men of many organizations—government entities, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), Pakistani celebrities, private companies, Pakistani media, and last but not least, private individuals. A number of Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) members (including Kashf and BRAC) are in this mix, and a CGI Pakistan Action Network was formed last September to coordinate the work of many members working in this critical area.

But it is the resilience of the individuals in Pakistan’s flood-affected communities that gives us cause for optimism. Small entrepreneurs are working to restore their enterprises with funding support from microfinance institutions. Communities are working to rebuild their schools and homes. With seed aid and other forms of assistance, farmers have planted seeds for the Rabi season.

The story of Rehman, who lived in a two-room home in Mannah village in the Kot Addu Tehsil in South Punjab, is illustrative of the stories of thousands of others affected by the flooding. Crippled by birth, Rehman has relied on his family’s help to get by. When the villagers received a warning that they must evacuate their homes, Rehman’s brother carried him on his shoulders to a camp set up by the army in the highlands. Thanks to his brother, Rehman survived the flood’s initial onslaught. He has returned to the location where his home used to be, only to learn that he has become homeless and all the assets of his family have been washed away. Rehman’s fate hangs in the balance. Presently, Rehman not only needs a consistent supply of food but with the winters setting in he also needs a permanent roof over his head.

In the Nowshera district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, another area that was hard hit by the floods, Ulfat is patiently rebuilding her life. Several years ago, after being abandoned by her husband, she returned to her childhood home and began earning a livelihood by starting her own tailoring shop with a microloan. She dreamt of taking over her father’s buffalo-rearing and milk business. The floods, however, damaged their home and washed away their livelihood—two buffaloes, one calf, her sewing machine, and furniture. But Ulfat is not standing still. With a new microloan and her existing savings, she began her livelihood recovery by investing in one buffalo. It is producing 10 liters of milk a day for sale in the market, and it also gave birth to a calf. NGO workers came and fixed the water and sanitation facilities. Her life, however, is still far from what it used to be before the floods. Her family is still living in a tent, and she is still waiting for the opportunity to bring life back to her sewing business.

As seen in Rehman and Ulfat, the will to rebuild livelihoods homes is widespread. However the resources needed by Rehman, Ulfat, and the millions like them are still very scarce. Approximately 2,000 people have died from the floods, but in the flood-affected communities the death toll could rise if the related destabilizing threats are not tackled—water-borne diseases, food insecurity, destroyed economic opportunities, children who lost their schools, and homelessness at the onset of winter. The U.N. Secretary General has called this situation a “slow-moving Titanic.”

The response to Pakistan’s flooding has been slower than to other natural disasters. Within 10 days of the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, international aid commitment per person was $70; after the 2010 floods this value was much lower, at $4 per person. Of the $2 billion that the United Nations called for, only half has been funded.

In this time of tremendous need, people like Rehman and Ulfat need greater compassion from the international community. The private and non-governmental sectors in Pakistan have embarked on reconstruction and rehabilitation work. They need to be empowered to deliver much more than they are capable of doing now. People like Rehman and Ulfat are real people, not statistics. They are just like most of us—working hard, wanting a better life.

Reconstructing homes and schools. Restoring clean water supplies. Restarting economic activity with financial services, agricultural support, and more. This is what Kashf, BRAC, and other Pakistani organizations and individuals are doing. But the sheer enormity of the devastation suffered by 20 million people requires more people and resources to help the flood victims of Pakistan to rebuild their lives.

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