Archive for the ‘kashmir earthquake’ tag
ISLAMABAD: The number of people suffering from the massive floods in Pakistan could exceed the combined total in three recent megadisasters – the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake – the United Nations said Monday.
The death toll in each of those three disasters was much higher than the 1,500 people killed so far in the floods that first hit Pakistan two weeks ago. But the Pakistani government estimates that over 13 million people have been affected - two million more than the other disasters combined.
The comparison helps frame the scale of the crisis, which has overwhelmed the Pakistani government and has generated widespread anger from flood victims who have complained that aid is not reaching them quickly enough or at all.
”It looks like the number of people affected in this crisis is higher than the Haiti earthquake, the tsunami or the Pakistan earthquake, and if the toll is as high as the one given by the government, it’s higher than the three of them combined,” Maurizio Giuliano, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told The Associated Press.
The UN has provided a lower number of people who have been affected in Pakistan, about 6 million, but Giuliano said his organization does not dispute the government’s figure. The UN number does not include the southern province of Sindh, which has been hit by floods in recent days, and the two sides have slightly different definitions of what it means to be affected.
The total number of people affected in the three other large disasters that have hit in recent years is about 11 million – 5 million in the tsunami and 3 million in each of the earthquakes – said Giuliano.
Many of the people affected by the floods, which were caused by extremely heavy monsoon rains, were located in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Rescue workers have been unable to reach up to 600,000 people marooned in the province’s Swat Valley, where many residents were still trying to recover from an intense battle between the army and the Taliban last spring, said Giuliano. Bad weather has prevented helicopters from flying to the area, which is inaccessible by ground, he said.
”All these people are in very serious need of assistance, and we are highly concerned about their situation,” said Giuliano.
Hundreds of thousands of people have also had to flee rising floodwaters in recent days in the central and southern provinces of Punjab and Sindh as heavy rains have continued to pound parts of the country.
One affected resident, Manzoor Ahmed, said Monday that although he managed to escape floods that submerged villages and destroyed homes in Sindh, the total lack of government help meant dying may have been a better alternative.
”It would have been better if we had died in the floods as our current miserable life is much more painful,” said Ahmed, who fled with his family from the town of Shikarpur and spent the night shivering in the rain that has continued to lash the country.
”It is very painful to see our people living without food and shelter,” he said.
Thousands of people in the neighboring districts of Shikarpur and Sukkur camped out on roads, bridges and railway tracks – any dry ground they could find – often with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and perhaps a plastic sheet to keep off the rain.
”I have no utensils. I have no food for my children. I have no money,” said Hora Mai, 40, sitting on a rain-soaked road in Sukkur along with hundreds of other people. ”We were able to escape the floodwaters, but hunger may kill us.”
A senior government official in Sukkur, Inamullah Dhareejo, said authorities were working to set up relief camps in the district and deliver food to flood victims.
But an Associated Press reporter who traveled widely through the worst-hit areas in Sindh over the past three days saw no sign of relief camps or government assistance.
The worst floods in Pakistan’s history hit the country at a time when the government is already struggling with a faltering economy and a brutal war against Taliban militants that has killed thousands of people.
The US and other international partners have stepped in to support the government by donating tens of millions of dollars and providing relief supplies and assistance.
But the UN special envoy for the disaster, Jean-Maurice Ripert, said Sunday that Pakistan will need billions of dollars more from international donors to recover from the floods, a daunting prospect at a time when the financial crisis has shrunk aid budgets in many countries
Today, news agencies report that Sindh province is currently bracing for a second round of heavy floods, and authorities warn “it could be as big as the first wave, which displaced millions and destroyed thousands of homes.” According to Al Jazeera English, “Authorities said waters have unexpectedly begun to rise at the Kotri barrage along the Indus river in southern Sindh, and now threaten to overrun the embankments around the barrage. Flooding at Kotri could potentially threaten the city of Hyderabad.”
So far, more than 1,600 have been confirmed dead since the flooding began in Pakistan two weeks ago, though this toll will rise as the disaster continues to spread and the threat of water-borne diseases like cholera rises. Villages have been swept away. Hundreds of families have been displaced from their homes, their livelihoods destroyed. Over 14 million people have been affected by these floods, more than the 2004 Tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake combined.
Since the flooding began, I have laid awake at night, haunted by the images of the tragedy – families wading through what was once their homes, villages submerged under water, people frantically escaping to safe areas not already destroyed by the floods. This disaster is bigger than anything you or I have seen in recent years. But it is not productive to just lament about the loss and tragedy of this disaster. It is not enough to hang our heads or blame leaders for their lack of action. If we want to help the millions suffering, we have to actuallydo something to help.
As many of you know, I’m the director of Social Vision, the venture philanthropy arm of ML Resources. Social Vision provides seed funding and support for innovative initiatives and social entrepreneurs/enterprises in their earliest stages. Earlier this week, I received a call from my friend, Mahnaz Fancy, who was one of the founders of Pakistani Peace Builders, a new initiative of Pakistani-Americans and concerned global citizens, the group behind the recentSufi Music Festival in New York City. Mahnaz shared many of my same frustrations about responses to the disaster, and offered the most time-sensitive solution – a grassroots donation campaign to benefit the millions impacted by the floods in Pakistan, a campaign that would appeal to bothPakistanis and non-Pakistanis.
We got to work immediately, designing a campaign that would leverage social media and grassroots giving to fund raise in the most efficient way possible. Therefore, rather than five people giving funds to five different (albeit all well-deserving) organizations, this campaign would enable those same five people to donate to one relief organization, an agency we had thoroughly vetted and were in close contact with. Therefore, the campaign aims to centralize donations in order to maximize impact of those funds.
This of course was a lot easier said than done, given the tremendous work of numerous relief agencies on the ground, both international and Pakistani. However, after much deliberation and due diligence, ML Social Vision and PPB chose Mercy Corps, a global aid agency, as the direct recipient of these donations. We made this decision based on Mercy Corps’ stellar reputation and credibility in the West and on the ground, its transparency, its ability to respond quickly to emergencies, and its previous work in Pakistan. Not only has the organization already launched its fundraising appeal, it also coordinates directly with local communities and organizations in Pakistan. Mercy Corps also doesn’t attempt to do too much, and instead concentrates on doing things well – it’s currently focusing on providing clean water, staple foods and clean-up tools for affected families mainly in Swat Valley and Sindh, two of the worst hit areas.
On Thursday, our campaign – Relief4Pakistan – went live, and we set our first fundraising goal at $100,000, with ML Social Vision providing the first $10,000to jump start the campaign. Since then, we have managed to raise over$19,000, which is fantastic, but we still have a way to go before hitting our goal. So please, donate by clicking here. Every dollar (or foreign currency!) counts. The money will go directly towards Mercy Corps and will be earmarked for their flood efforts. You can also join our Facebook page, where you will receive updates on our progress, news on the disaster, as well as updates we will post from Mercy Corps’ efforts on the ground. Given that tomorrow is Pakistan Day, there is nothing more patriotic you can do than donate or support the numerous families affected by the floods. If you decide to hold your own fundraiser, and are not sure where to donate the funds you receive, please feel free to contact us or donate it directly.
At a time of such tremendous tragedy, the best way to make a difference is to help. Thanks and Happy Pakistan Day!