Most people in the country may have forgotten about the flood victims of Sindh, in spite of repeated reports from humanitarian agencies. A recently released report of the International Organisation for Migration warns us that in several districts of Sindh thousands of people are still unable to reach their home because villages and roads are still under water. It would come as a relief to the people of the Badin district then — one of the areas worst hit by the 2011 flood — to know that not everyone has cast them away into distant memory.
The visit by Hollywood actor and director Sean Penn and an eight-member US diplomatic mission may not have sent people rushing up to the star for autographs. Few in the remote villages that he visited would have ever seen the films he has made. But, nevertheless, the visit must come as some kind of solace to people who suffer a great deal. Penn and other members of the delegation, which included the US consul-general to Karachi, inquired about the health and educational facilities available to the flood victims. Many of the victims explained that a key concern was livelihood and the question of how to restore badly damaged lands. The US mission, meanwhile, spoke of the assistance already given to the flood victims of Sindh with 1.2 million people provided food and another 1.6 million with water. But the mere spouting out of figures and also a possible US effort to win over friends in a country where it has many enemies does little to reassure the victims.
What is important about the visit by the American actor, and those accompanying him, is the evidence that the international community has not totally forgotten the flood victims. This should be a lesson for our own government which needs to do much more to ensure life return to normal for all those displaced by the floods and that they have access to the basic needs of life. This has not happened so far and amends need to be quickly made.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2012.