I was mentally planning out this article the other day as I started reading the newspaper. And I was a little bit surprised. Every page that I turned seemed to detail more and more instances of apathy on the part of privileged Pakistanis towards their unfortunate, flood-affected brethren. How odd, I was going to write about just the opposite.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of generosity that I’ve seen from friends, family and acquaintances in the past few weeks as the severity of the flooding in Pakistan has become known. In fact, I’m feeling a little bit ashamed to not be doing more myself.
What’s great about the relief efforts that I’m following is that they are being conducted exclusively outside the quagmire of government offices and agencies. For me, it’s important to know that the food, money or materials that are donated are getting to the right people, and not being squandered by the incompetent or squirreled away by the unscrupulous.
And that’s why I’m grateful for the people that I do know who are personally doing such admirable work. I can give donate cash or kind, or refer other interested donors to them, and be confident that the money will be used wisely and that the food and goods will be distributed quickly and to those truly in need of it. A few organisations I’d like to single out for mention, in case you too are interested in helping, are Aitemaad Pakistan ([email protected]), The Citizen’s Foundation (http://www.tcfusa.org/flood-relief-faqs), and the Omar Asghar Khan Development Foundation (http://www.oakdf.org.pk/).
Here it must be pointed out that relief work in a disaster zone, and make no mistakes, a disaster is exactly what’s happening in Pakistan right now, is not something to be approached lightly. Citizens charging into the fray misinformed or under-equipped are likely to only make matters worse. If you feel like you need to get your hands and boots on the ground personally, please make sure you do so in a responsible manner, and with an agency or organisation that is equipped to give you emergency training and to deploy you in a proper location.
And it might be worth hanging on to that energy, because the need of the hour is going to extend well into the next year. Long after the flood waters have abated there will be a need for continuing rehabilitation work and efforts, to give the people of the affected areas the support that they will need to rebuild their lives. The term donor fatigue has been in the press a lot lately, and we do need to be aware of the phenomenon, particularly in a place like Pakistan where the generosity of the wealthy is vital for the well being of millions of less fortunate people. This flood is an extra-ordinary situation, and must be treated as such when you are making your yearly charitable donations. If you normally give Rs100, please give Rs100 to your regular charities plus whatever else you can spare for flood relief efforts. If you don’t normally donate, this is the year to start.
And to everyone that’s already out in the trenches doing their part — you have my most heartfelt thanks and gratitude.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2010.