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Friday, August 6, 2010

Amidst Pakistan's Flood Devastation, Hope Remains

Islamic Relief USA’s Vice President of Programs, Adnan Ansari, is in Pakistan helping with the aid efforts and surveying the needs of the flood victims.

Friday August 6, 2010

The floods have spared no one. Rich and poor, young and old— the torrential rains and the resulting landslides have taken millions of Pakistanis by surprise, no matter what part of town they lived in.

Everywhere I went, I saw hardship written on the faces of the people. But I also saw hope and gratitude in their eyes. It was also on their tongues.

Despite the long lines, dwindling supplies and difficulties on the ground, everyone I talked to was thankful. Not only to Islamic Relief, but they were also grateful to Allah for saving their lives.

A group of Islamic Relief emergency responders from around the world (I am the U.S. representative in the team) and I were supporting Islamic Relief Pakistan staff members working tirelessly from the Islamabad office.

Today we helped distribute hygiene kits in a campsite near Pir Sabaq, a village north of Mardan. In the camp, I saw people waiting in long lines waiting for supplies to be distributed, old women sitting on the ground with despair written on their faces, people praying on the grass with the confidence that ease follows hardship and children caring for their younger siblings. The storms were an instant maturing process for many of them, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it scarred them for life. I couldn’t imagine dealing with such a disaster at their young age. But they were displaying poise and patience that I found very praiseworthy.

Most were farmers who saw their months’ efforts in the crops ready for harvest being washed away overnight. “Normally we can have two crops each year but our first crop is now gone and the soil is no longer suitable for us sowing for the second. All we can do is wait for the spring to arrive to start tilling the soil again.” This was a common message we received from many. There is no other means of income for them.

Several of the camp residents were also very educated and in the prime of their youth. One of the victims I talked to was a Master’s candidate in Forestry, who had completed his research and was about to submit his thesis paper. The floods swept everything away, and all he can do now is wait and see if he can salvage the six months’ work put into the thesis from his laptop, but he doesn’t know for sure. Another eloquently kept explaining the situation caused by the flood in the words of Allama Iqbal’s poetry.

Outside the camps, many people were staying put in their villages, despite their homes being destroyed and the roads being cut off. “This is all we have left,” one of the victims who stayed home (which had no walls left) told me. “I can’t risk leaving my belongings unattended.”

People’s dreams were hit hard by the floods. But their ability to overcome the hardship is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Still I wonder how long they can hold up.

Supplies really are getting low, and the people need our help. I hope everyone can dig deep in this time of need and support them.

--Adnan Ansari, Vice President of Programs, Islamic Relief USA

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To read more about Islamic Relief’s response in Pakistan, click here.
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