With the onset of the holy month of Ramazan, Pakistan is beset with its worst natural disaster ever. According to the UN, at least 460 million dollars will be needed by the country to provide sustained relief to the millions affected by the floods. And the worst part is that the flooding is far from over, with another massive flood forecast to hit southern Punjab and upper Sindh on Saturday and Independence Day. The fact that it affects so wide a swathe of territory, across all four provinces and also the Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan territories, makes the disaster especially difficult to handle. Unlike the Kashmir earthquake of 2005, the area of damage essentially stretches across the entire country. The World Food Programme has said that it will provide meals to at least six million people displaced by the flood for the next three months.
Given this, the most important priority should be on doing things in the present. And in that respect two things need to be done. The government needs to move all people who are still under threat from further flooding to secure areas. As for ordinary Pakistanis, it seems that the scale of giving for relief assistance has not been on the same level as that followed the 2005 quake. This needs to change. To say that the official state machinery cannot be trusted is more of an excuse because enough private organisations, NGOs and groups are organising efforts for people to have enough options to give – and give they must. According to the NDMA, the following are urgently required and these can be sent to the nearest PAF bases for onward transfer. These items include dried milk, biscuits, mineral water, sugar, pulses, tea, vegetable oil, shoes, cooking utensils, mosquito nets, soap, toothpaste, diapers, sanitary pads for women, ORS, candles, water purification tablets, matches, flashlights and so on.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2010.