In theory, we know food is an acute necessity for the millions of flood victims scattered across the country. In reality, the true nature of hunger is just now being driven home. In Muzaffargarh, convoys bringing in food have been attacked by starving flood victims forcing the attempt to distribute supplies to be called off. Similar attempts to snatch food off trucks have been reported in other places and there are warnings worse could lie ahead. Aid workers and district administrations have warned of raids on warehouses and other violent attempts to grab food. People who have nothing to eat and who cradle children who cry out from the sharp pain of starvation will not stop at anything to fill their stomachs. This after all is a basic human instinct based on the need to survive. In such a situation arresting people as has been done in Muzaffargarh or using force to try and disperse mobs may — in the very short-term — be a necessity to prevent relief workers from being harmed or large-scale riots from breaking out.
As an immediate measure, ahead of all else, ways need to be found to get food across to people. We have reports of starvation from Swat, south Punjab and other places. The government and several foreign relief agencies are trying to get food and other basic items to those stranded and in most need. However, the scale of those rendered homeless is so great that the more well-off among us, and especially those who have so far escaped the floods must step forward as well. If food is not provided, we could see anarchy and a complete breakdown of law and order — and this could threaten the very foundations of Pakistani society. The worst part is that the floods are not over and even when the water subsides, the task of feeding millions of displaced Pakistanis for several months is a Herculean one. It will need not only all the resources of a very-strapped government but also will depend on foreign donors coming good on their funding pledges. Above all, it will depend on a reliable and transparent distribution mechanism which delivers the food to the deserving.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2010.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ