According to reports coming in from many parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, especially Swat because of its mountainous terrain, people displaced by the floods are desperately short of food, medicines, drinking water and other supplies essential to their survival. There is talk of starvation with no food available and international relief agencies are also warning of outbreak of diseases in the relief camps — mainly because clean drinking water and sanitation facilities are in short supply. In other parts of the flood-stricken region there are accounts of disease breaking out. Things could become worse in the coming days if the relief effort is not quickly streamlined. In Swat, many of those hit have already withstood many months of conflict.
It is true the destruction of roads and bridges makes access to people extremely arduous. Japanese tourists stuck in Swat had to be air-lifted out by the Pakistan military. But despite the handicaps posed by the collapse of communications it is vital that more be done to offer relief to people who have been plunged into immense suffering through no fault of their own. It is already clear that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction with the efforts made so far to assist the flood victims. This expands well beyond more remote areas such as Swat or Shangla to cities such as Peshawar and Nowshera. The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government is quite openly stating it is overwhelmed. That it lacks the resources required to stage a relief operation on the scale that is needed.
Some offers of help have already come in from other countries including the US and China. Humanitarian teams from the UN, the ICRC and other bodies have been conducting initial assessment missions in affected areas. But it is clear the relief effort needs organisation and coordination. People in already devastated areas such as Swat will need all the help they can get to rebuild lives and resume livelihoods. Crucial to this, we believe, is a response from within the country, as happened after the earthquake of 2005. Of course, that catastrophe took far more lives but the flood of 2010 has in all likelihood devastated the livelihoods and homes of several million among us. Those who can, should come forward and help them in any way they can.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2010.
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