In a region known for poverty, destruction, and hunger, the floods that have swept Pakistan into complete misery are unrivaled in their magnitude. They have devastated the lives of millions and caused the death of close to 2000 civilians, with numbers remaining sketchy due to a painstakingly slow and ineffective humanitarian response. However, the biggest challenge and threat to the lives of millions in the country lies not in the floods, but in the aftermath that the international community is idly standing by and allowing to deteriorate from bad to undignified.
Weeks have passed since massive downpours first battered North Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, and now the same flood waters are moving south towards Sindh Province. In Sindh alone a rough estimate shows the number of people affected by the flooding to be one million while close to two million have lost their homes. Across the country it is estimated the flooding has affected and displaced approximately twenty million people. The United Nations and Pakistani government estimate close to 80% of the country's food stock has been destroyed by flooding. In the coming months when the flood waters will finally have receded, how will this country of 170 million be fed? The damage to Pakistan's humanitarian infrastructure is beyond comprehension and the world is most likely witnessing the worst natural disaster confounded by human corruption in the past two centuries.
- According to Maurizio Giuliano, a spokesperson for the United Nations, 6 million people are in danger of suffering from waterborne illnesses, with 36,000 cases of diarrhea already being reported. He further notes, "Up to 3.5 million children are at risk of deadly waterborne diseases such as watery diarrhea and dysentery. We need to arrange for clean drinking water on an emergency basis, otherwise we will have a second wave of deaths."
- The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF estimate 1.5 million cases of waterborne diseases (including up to 140,000 of cholera), 150,000 cases of measles, 350,000 cases of acute respiratory infections and up to 100,000 cases of malaria can occur in the country over the next three months.
- Over four million people in Sindh and Punjab still do not have a shelter and are sleeping under the open sky, susceptible to countless illnesses, disease, and danger (Maurizio Giuliano, UN)
- The long-term impact of the flooding in Pakistan will dwarf the catastrophe in Haiti and the Tsunami of 2004. According to Martin Mogwanja , a UNICEF Representative in Pakistan, "In terms of numbers of people needing life-saving assistance, this emergency is bigger than the Asian tsunami, the Haiti earthquake and the last earthquake in Pakistan put together."
How Can I Help?
With the humanitarian situation in Pakistan quickly crushing an already impoverished country into utter desperation, there is an urgent need for clean drinking water, shelter and basic medical supplies. While several (but not nearly enough) countries have pledged aid, there is a regressive element of open corruption in Pakistan's government. Many aid organizations are worried the little money being pledged by other countries will never reach the victims of the flooding because of bureaucratic incompetence and corruption.
Due to this risk of funds not reaching those in need, donors are encouraged to contribute directly through reputable aid organizations. The flooding is not even receiving the same level of attention Haiti received earlier this year, as people remain unaware or apathetic about the situation in Pakistan. Yet there remains an urgent need for help; the waves of death must be met with waves of financial support.
The magnitude of this catastrophe has yet to be fully understood as we stand by and watch 20 million individuals sink into utter and complete desperation. This Ramadan, as we sit with our families and enjoy a warm meal, let us consider for a moment our homeless and starving counterparts in Pakistan. Your simple donation of 10, 20 or however many dollars can save a life. Let us stop relying on others to take responsibility and help change the reprehensible condition of mankind not caring for its brothers and sisters.
If an obstacle to contributing lies in not knowing a reputable charity to donate to, please find below a list of trusted and tried charities you can make your contribution to. Please act now and do not let an ounce of self-interest stand before your ability to change the condition and circumstances of a starving orphan, or the now homeless widow who must care for her children, or the farmer who has just lost his entire livelihood to the floods.
Suggested List of Charities