Perhaps, we have become just a little immune to disaster; unwilling to acknowledge it when it occurs. The accounts coming in from Sindh and Balochistan describe the havoc that has been caused as being as terrifying as that seen in 2010 and 2011. But somehow, this time around, we seem to be hearing less about the floods, with a kind of glazed indifference hanging in the air. It is hard to explain quite why this should be the case.
In Sindh, the scenes suggest that oceans have rolled out across parts of the province. According to official sources, 95 per cent of Jacobabad is stated to be under water. Children who had been stranded in villages where no one could reach them, died due to sickness and neglect. The situation in other districts, notably those in the north, is said to be little better.
Authorities say that hill torrents rolling into Sindh from Balochistan have added to the problems occurring there. Balochistan itself faces peril and over a million people are stated to have been rendered homeless in the two provinces. Vast tracts of land have been destroyed and over 100 deaths have been reported. The toll of illness, as stagnant water collects, is no doubt still to come.
The prime minister has announced a two billion rupees relief package for Sindh. After surveying the situation, the UN has also said it will do what it can to help. But the fact remains that just months ago, as the monsoon season began, major humanitarian agencies had warned clearly that they were short of funds, given the expenditures of the past two years.
It is also true that misuse of funds that were previously allotted has made donors reluctant to give more to Pakistan. Efforts at home, from the government and other institutions, must get underway to manage matters better and to prevent further suffering. We must also ask if more could have been done to prevent the disaster on the scale on which it occurred and whether we have learnt anything at all from our encounters with floods over the past few years. By now, we should be familiar with the devastation they can cause, affecting millions within days.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2012.
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