Latest Updates

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Doing What It Takes

Islamic Relief USA staff member, Anwar Khan, recently visited Pakistan, where he met many people that Islamic Relief is assisting. In a diary entry, he reflected on his experience.

Today we visited Rawalpindi which is a twin city of the capital Islamabad. I met Uzma Bibi who is 14 years old and lives with her widowed mother Zakiya, 12-year-old brother Ajab and seven-year-old Hashim in one room.

They have a small courtyard 10 feet by six feet which is their dining room, kitchen and wash room. Outside their house, the sewage flows openly and the water in the area is contaminated.

Uzma's father died in the floods of Rawalpindi in 2001. Seven months later, her youngest brother was born. Her mother was young, pregnant and widowed. To
survive, she had to ask neighbors for leftovers to feed her children, pretending they were for the chickens. Sometimes they would soak hard, old bread in water so they could eat and sometimes they would go to sleep hungry.

Uzma couldn't afford to go to school and the neighborhood kids didn't want to play with her because her clothes stank. Eating was a problem, so soap was a privilege.

Her mother tried to make ends meet as a maid. However, her vomiting and sickness increased as she was diagnosed with Hepatitis B and then Tuberculosis. She still worked cleaning floors on her knees and washing clothes, but less hours.

Just when I thought things could not get worse, Zakiya told us that Uzma had to have surgery to remove her tonsils and appendix. She had to take a $100 loan to pay
for her costs at the Government clinic.

Her 12-year-old works at a cooking oil factory six days a week for $4 a week. She now sows embroidery 4 hours a day for $2.50 a week.

Zakiya does whatever it takes to look after her children. She thanks Allah (swt) that this Ramadan they will have food every day for iftar.

Uzma Bibi is now being sponsored by a donor from the US and Islamic Relief is taking care of the cost of the operation. There are hundreds of orphan families like Uzma’s who are on our waiting list in Pakistan and around the world. It only costs $49/month to sponsor an orphan family in Pakistan. Please call (888) 479 - 4968 or click here if you are interested in sponsoring orphans like Uzma in Pakistan or in other countries where Islamic Relief operates.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Scarred by Conflict

Although many people displaced by the conflict in Pakistan have began returning to their homes and started rebuilding their lives, for nine-year-old Ihtesham life will never be the same again.

Ihtesham lives with his family in the village of Nawagai in Buner District. His father and uncle run a poultry business and were reluctant to leave their home and abandon everything they had worked so hard to create.

A Serious Injury
One day Ihtesham was playing outside his house with friends when his village came under attack. Ihtesham’s father was shot and Ihtesham was struck by a piece of shrapnel. His father experienced only minor injuries, but Ihtesham suffered from serious head injuries. He was taken to the local clinic but his condition was so bad that the doctor there could do very little for him.

Ihtesham was taken by his father to Swabi for emergency medical care but was then referred to Peshawar for further treatment. Ihtesham’s injuries required major surgery and he had to stay in hospital for two weeks. Although he is now recovering, he has permanently lost the sight in his left eye.

Psychological trauma
In addition to the physical effects of the conflict, Ihtesham is still also deeply psychologically traumatized by what he has experienced. Whenever he hears a loud noise or the sound of a plane he becomes scared and stops talking. Unfortunately he is not the only child to be behaving in this way. Many of his friends who also witnessed bombings and the shelling of their homes, have also been left deeply traumatized and in need of psychological support.

No income
Ihtesham needs further treatment and support if he is to overcome the psychological and physical injuries he has experienced. But providing this care will be difficult for his family who have suffered such huge losses. Like many other people in this region they are dependent on agriculture, running a poultry farm in order to make a living. But like other farms in the region, this was severely damaged by the fighting and they now have no source of income.

Islamic Relief has been working with displaced people in Mardan, providing them with healthcare, psychosocial support, clean water and sanitation facilities. We are now planning to move this support to Buner to assist those who are returning home and struggling to rebuild their lives.

Your support can help us provide children like Ihtesham with psychosocial support, healthcare, clean water and an education. Please donate today.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Islamic Relief USA Envoy Presses On

Upon completing his visit to the northwest Pakistan conflict zone where Islamic Relief is helping thousands of conflict-affected people, US staff member Anwar Khan continued his trip. Pakistan-administered Kashmir was next on his list, where Islamic Relief has had a lasting impact on the people's lives. Khan wrote a letter from the field sharing his experience.

August 8

We traveled to Bagh in Pakistan controlled Kashmir today. This was one of the most devastated areas after the 2005 earthquake that killed 80,000 people. I first visited this area in 1998 for a water project and have returned many times since the earthquake. In my 2005 visit, which was five weeks after the earthquake, we could still smell the corpses under the rubble. Parents were sitting on the side of the road holding photos of their missing children asking any passers by if they have seen their missing children. Homes, schools, bridges, communities were decimated by the earthquake.

Four years on, many of the homes are reconstructed, some schools and hospitals have been rebuilt, but there is still much work to be done. We visited Jandi Bhatti Kot village in the mountains. There is no road, but a river and a rocky trail to the village. We arrived for the inauguration of the water system. Kashmir is lush green, but may of the women in the mountains spend half of their lives fetching water.

I met a young girl and smiled when I realized by building this water system in her village we have saved her 30 years of fetching water. Now she can spend more time on going to school and studying.

There is still much work to be done in the area. Often, there are no doctors in these rural areas. Pregnant women may travel for hours on mountains to get to the nearest health facility. In Jandi Bhatti Kot they thanked Islamic Relief for food, tents, blankets, shelter and water systems after the earthquake, but asked for a school so there daughters could go to school. The nearest school is too difficult for them to go to in the rain and snow. Above all they want to be in a situation where they will not need assistance from anyone.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Latest Entry from USA Staff in Pakistan

Islamic Relief USA team member Anwar Khan is in the Pakistan conflict zone visiting IDPs and affected communities. He met children that Islamic Relief is helping at the Mardan Mercy Center, and he was very impressed but feels there is more work to be done. He sent his reflections for you to read.

August 6.

We were up at 5 am to start the journey at 6 am. Using the toll way it took one-and-a-half hours to travel 100 M to Mardan, but then it took 1 hour to travel 24 M to the village of Qaderabad using rural roads in a 4 wheel drive.

It was amazing to see 350 children at the Islamic Relief Mercy Center in Qaderabad. The majority were girls which is a good sign in this area. They were engaged in structured creative play which helps them deal with the problems that many of them are suffering from. They spend the morning and late afternoon there, leaving in the early afternoon when temperatures reach 110 degrees F with no electricity to power a fan.

We saw some of the boys engaged in 'manipulative play therapy' in which they play with building blocks and puzzles to fix problems. This helps in their problem solving skills and gives us an insight into their state of mind. I was impressed by the complexity of Gharan and Haroon's blocksuntil I was told what they had built. Eleven-year-old Ghafran had built a helicopter gunship and 7-year-old Haroon a rocket launcher. This shows that the conflict is still fresh on their minds and their psychologists still have significant work to do with them. They are suffering from acute trauma now and if untreated could suffer from severe trauma in six months. In a few years, if we do not look after these boys they may be operating rocket launchers.

I spoke to some of the gils who were engaged in role-play therapy with dolls. When I asked 9-year-old Zaiby why she liked playing with these new dolls she replied, “because they are so pretty." When I asked what her dolls at home looked like she replied she had none. They don't have toys, but have fear of violence. This is not a situation we would want for our sons and daughters.

The trip to the Mercy Center was exhilarating knowing that the children had a sanctuary to go to. But it was depressing knowing the misery and poverty of their daily lives.

We then proceeded to the rural health clinic in Rustam. It is the only health facility in the area. Islamic Relief is supporting the clinic and has a Mercy center attached to service the IDps and host communities. Since the crisis began in May, the local population had to host double their capacity. Every morning, every house would bring food to the mosque, which would then be distributed to each house in need.

The power was on for 2 hours, then off for 2 hours in Rustam. We were there during midday when the temperature reached 108 degrees F. I have never perspired so much in my life. One of the locals told me the heat is a reminder of the heat of hell. The locals do not have AC, and only a few have fans, but even power is hard to come by. Imagine how the elderly and the very young (who are most at risk) are coping. The generator in the hospital was not working because they needed $125 for the battery. It didn't make a difference to have the medical equipment, because the rural hospital serving nearly 30,000 people has no electrical medical equipment.

We were told one of the biggest problems are the lack of female doctors. Many women will not get treatment unless they see a female doctor. This may result in death if there disease is not treated in time. The problem is finding female doctors to work in rural areas, even if they are paid more. This is a long term problem. It's a reminder that we can not always write a check to fix every problem.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Diary Entry from USA Staff in Pakistan

USA staff member, Anwar Ahmed Khan, has arrived in Pakistan to assess the IDP situation left from the recent conflict in NWFP.

Wednesday, August 5

I traveled today from Lahore to Islamabad. It is hot and humid. There are electricity blackouts every other hour in Lahore and every few hours in Islamabad, the capital. It becomes difficult in temperatures over 100 F; remember, these are the better off areas.

I received the security clearance today to travel to Mardan. It is 1.5 hours away, but many cars have been attacked in the last few months. IRUSA sent a delegation a few weeks ago that was unable to visit our Mercy Centers.

The purpose of my trip is to assess our work in NWFP and what we in the U.S. can do to assist those in need. As the fighting subsides, some of the displaced people are returning home and on this trip we are hoping to assess what is the best way to help them.

We have been told to wear local tunics, shalwar kameez and not wear any IR logos until we arrive in our centers. Some of our staff have received death threats.

I met the head of programs last night. He has not slept for 2 days, writing grant requests for the UN and others. He is very passionate about the week and wishes we could do more. They need more cash and experienced local staff.

Monday, August 3, 2009

USA Staff Visit Pakistan Projects

Islamic Relief USA staff member Shaista Khan recently returned from a trip to Pakistan where she and some colleagues visited different projects that Islamic Relief is spearheading. She was very impressed and brought back vivid stories and great news for Islamic Relief supporters. She reflected on her trip in a letter, excerpts from which are below:

Dhulli may be an insignificant point on most maps, yet this tiny place is one of the many that Islamic Relief has managed to reach out and give life and hope to.

Dhulli is home to a Basic health Unit (BHU), which was recently built by Islamic Relief in Bagh district on Dhulli Road. The BHU serves 9,000 people of neighboring villages. Some may have to walk a few kilometers to reach it, but they are extremely grateful for its presence.

This is one of the many projects that I visited during my travels in Pakistan. By projects, I mean the vast developmental, self-sustainable projects in those rural areas of Pakistan that no one else dares to venture, where Islamic Relief is bringing a beacon of light to the needy, maintaining their dignity and empowering the people.

Whether it’s the water pump in a rural village, or the income generation projects that help women run their own businesses by providing Islamic microfinance loans, Islamic Relief has done wonders.

The orphans support program is in itself admirable, whereby the orphan is not
separated from his/her other members of the family.

Those who sponsor orphans through Islamic Relief should feel proud that their donations are going a long way in building a young life in a world full of challenges.

With so much to say and share, I simply had to put my intro letter together so that I can reach out to you and request that you invite me and my great Islamic Relief team to your home/masjid /meeting place, so that we may further share our experiences.

The experience moved me; I can’t imagine what it will do to you.

I look forward to hearing from you,

From the heart,
Shaista Khan