PAKISTAN’S OWN KATRINA: Be a Difference-Maker
I just finished reading the book “ZEITOUN” by Dave Eggers, with a vivid accounting of life experienced before, during and after the flooding of a major American city in 2005. As the 5th year anniversary of the decimation of New Orleans arrives, brought on by Hurricane Katrina, Pakistan is experiencing its own version of natural calamity. Flooding resulting from monsoon rains has now engulfed one-third of the entire country. To put this into perspective, the flooded areas of Pakistan, still under water today, is an area equivalent to the entire combined land mass of Austria, Belgium and Switzerland. If you can’t quite picture that, picture this: the entire country of Greece completely flooded. In U.S. geographic terms? It’s as if the entire state of Florida were now underwater. If you can’t possibly imagine that, consider that to be equivalent to the flooding of the ENTIRE state of Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Rhode Island, Maryland and the capital Washington DC COMBINED.
It started raining on July 22nd and only eight days later Anne Patterson, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, had issued a disaster declaration. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon upon visiting the country soon after stated, “the world has never seen such a disaster… it’s much beyond anybody’s imagination.” Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s has just called it “The World’s Biggest Emergency” while The Economist writes that “social, economic and political misery will endure for a long time yet…(and) the threat of epidemic disease lurks.” I recall watching the forceful and mighty Indus river from its banks during a trip to the Northern areas of Pakistan in the 1990s, the same river which has run over its banks and spread outwards by scores of miles. I recall riding in a rickety Suzuki minivan along the mountain high ancient Silk Road, today’s KKH (also known as the Karakoram Highway, the world’s highest paved road), which connects Pakistan to China, the same road parts of which are now closed due to damaged infrastructure from the same monsoon rains.
The latest numbers indicate the following:
- Nearly 20 million people have been displaced (more than the population of the state of New York) including 79 out of 122 districts of Pakistan, and at least half of these people require immediate and sustained humanitarian assistance
- 60,000 square miles are under water
- 1600 deaths
- 14 million people are in need of emergency medical care
- 2.5 million are homeless
- 800,000 people remain cut off from all assistance due to harshness of the terrain and current flood conditions
- 1.2 million homes have been damaged or destroyed
- 1.2 million large animals and 6 million poultry have perished
- 2.6 million acres of cultivated land has been underwater
- Economically, the agricultural base of the economy has been decimated, with 1 million metric tons of wheat damaged (farmers have lost of 37% of the rice crop, 17% of the cotton crop and 15% of the sugarcane crop)
There’s been a question about why international aid for this disaster has been slow in coming, compared to crises during the Asian Tsunami or Haiti Earthquake. Though many would like to give financially to support the humanitarian needs associated with this disaster, I’m not surprised when I read and hear personally from others that they doubt their donations will indeed go where needed, and instead be squandered by corrupt government bureaucrats or even misappropriated to support local extremists like the Pakistani Taliban (check the blogs lately?). For this very reason, I’ve seen several attempts to gather physical foodstuffs and supplies to be shipped via container from the US to the region for those in need. However, it should be noted that the most effective way to for the average observer to make an impact during and after any tragic event, as seen through the Asian Tsunami and Pakistan and Haiti earthquakes, is to empower those LOCALLY involved in disaster relief services, not necessarily the Government. Cash contributions to humanitarian organizations that are conducting relief operations makes funds directly available to those entities on the ground with the logistical resources, relationships and know-how to help those with the most critical needs. Monetary contributions also allow these aid professionals to procure the exact items needed, within the affected region, and reduces the need for transportation and warehouse costs.
Here are simple ways for you to become a difference-maker, starting with monetary contributions: $25 would feed a family for a week, while one payment of $200 would provide life-saving medication for up to 200 children.
1) You can be Difference-Maker by making a personal and/or corporate financial contribution to a local on-the-ground humanitarian agency or Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), including several which are also US registered 501(c)3 charities.
- Pakistan-based KASHF Foundation is on-the-ground in Pakistan, and providing disaster relief services right now. KASHF is one of the largest microfinance organizations in Pakistan, and is also an Acumen Fund investee with a focus on building sustainable livelihoods for women and their families. Founder and CEO Roshaneh Zafar was featured in the best-seller “Half the Sky” by writers Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, and prominently acknowledged by President Obama during the April 2010 Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship. The social and economic impact of the floods will be felt most adversely by women, children and the elderly, thus it’s crucial to support financially those organizations seeking to empower these at-risk populations (see www.kashf.org and donate at www.floodrelief.pk/kf)
- Pakistan-based SHINE Humanity / Comprehensive Disaster Response Services (CDRS) is on-the-ground in Pakistan, and providing disaster relief services right now. CDRS is run and founded by the selfless American musician Todd Shea. It seems that Shea is drawn to disaster areas with the desire to help those in need, and he’s responded previously to the 9/11 tragedy in New York, the Asian Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the earthquakes in both Pakistan and Haiti (see http://www.shinehumanity.org/ and donate at http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/pakistan-flood/)
- Pakistan-based Zindagi Trust (also registered as a US charity) is on-the-ground in Pakistan, and run and founded by Pakistani musician Shehzad Roy, recipient of the 2009 Patricia Blunt Koldyke Fellowship by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Zindagi Trust is assisting with disaster relief, but its primary focus has been the re-vamping and upgrading of the dismal public school education system in Pakistan. Since children are among the most at-risk population post-disaster, Roy’s organization will have an important role to play in the long term development and stability of the country (see www.zindagitrust.org)
- US-based Islamic Relief USA is on-the-ground in Pakistan and had previously raised $70 million for disaster relief after the 2005 Pakistan earthquake. They have people working right now and this well-funded charity is also rated 4-star by Charity Navigator (see www.islamicreliefusa.org)
- US-based Mercy Corps is on-the-ground in Pakistan, and is providing disaster relief services right now, and is the favored charity of the new Pakistani Peace Builders initiative, started by members of the Pakistani American community (see www.mercycorps.com or www.relief4pakistan.com)
- There are many other excellent organizations providing disaster relief services, including UNICEF, some of which can be found listed at www.interaction.org and there are also many social entrepreneurs doing good work there as well with a focus on long-term outcomes beyond the initial rush to provide humanitarian assistance, so be diligent in your research but be sure to contribute what you can when you decide how best to allocate your chosen contribution.
2) You can make a $10 tax-deductible donation via your mobile phone, and let others know that it can be THIS EASY to make a meaningful difference:
- Text “RELIEF“ to 20222 to benefit Islamic Relief (www.irw.org)
- Text “FLOODS” to 864233 to benefit UNICEF (www.unicefusa.org)
- Text “SWAT” to 50555 to benefit the UNHCR (www.unhcr.org)
- Text “FLOOD“ to 27722 to benefit the US State Department’s “Pakistan Relief Fund” (www.state.gov/pakistanrelief)
3) You can be a Difference-Maker by facilitating funding: if you know of a legitimate and reputable local organization on the ground in Pakistan that is in need of funding, help them apply for financial assistance from USAID and its Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) via the Concern “RAPID” Fund: http://www.concern-pak.org.pk/Rapid_Main.htm
4) You can spread the word: share information via your social networks, one way is to “like” Pakistan Flood-Action Network (P-FAN) on Facebook, or follow their twitter feed @floodaction. P-FAN was created on August 14th by concerned citizens as a response to the humanitarian crisis, and aims to raise awareness of the crisis and promote fundraising efforts. To receive text updates from P-FAN send the text “follow floodaction” to 40404 from your mobile phone. Send a letter to your local paper to share information on the crisis and how others might help, or send a short email to your friends.
If this humanitarian crisis moves you to action, as it should move us all, yet you can not contribute towards alleviation of the crisis as noted above, then you can at least read and share the thoughts of those who have given serious contemplation to the crisis, thus the below links about this tragedy are worth a read, and can be shared to help others be better informed:
- Gordon Brown, Former PM of the UK, “The World’s Biggest Emergency” (8/25/10) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gordon-brown/the_worlds_biggest_emergency_b_693174.html
- Ethan Casey, “Pakistan Floods: Why Should We Care?” (8/13/10) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ethan-casey/pakistan-floods-why-shoul_b_683412.html
To further analyze the scope of the current disaster, including detailed statistics and maps of the flooded areas, as well as what’s being done right now, you can check out the following resources:
- UN Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA): http://ochaonline.un.org/
- One Response Pakistan, by UN OHCA Pakistan: http://pakresponse.info/
- US State Department: www.state.gov/pakistanflooding
- USAID assistance updates: http://www.usaid.gov/pakistanflooding/
- ReliefWeb: www.reliefweb.int
- Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI): http://www.cidi.org/
And of course, say a little prayer, and when Thanksgiving comes around this year, give gratitude for not being caught in a natural calamity, or man-made one for that matter, and being able to enjoy the comforts we have on a daily basis.
ADNAN SHAMSI, Princeton, NJ
Financial Advisory / Risk Advisory Consultant
Co-President, Thunderbird School of Global Management Alumni Association, Princeton Chapter