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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Islamic Relief's Anwar Khan Travels to Remote Flood-Affected Villages in Punjab

The journey to Multan took eight hours due to flooded roads. On the way, we saw roads washed away, villages destroyed and many people camping on the side of the road. There was more flooding here in Punjab than we had seen earlier in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa, where flooding originally began over three weeks ago.

On Sunday, we departed Multan early in the morning to escape the extreme heat of the afternoon. As we drove to Muzaffargarh, the water levels steadily rose. For much of the journey we were driving slowly through water. What appeared to be a series of lakes was actually the main road. Roads have been washed away, bridges knocked out and villages submerged.

Islamic Relief is supporting five to six camps in the area, housing approximately 6,000 displaced people. The locals told us that Tylenol was the only medicine available and was being given for any ailment. Men were walking through neck-high standing water to “cross the river” to their destroyed homes and see if they could salvage anything.

Children were drinking disease-inducing contaminated water. A four-month-old baby was being washed in the same brown contaminated water. When we asked the mother why she was doing that, she told us she had no other source of water.

Nearing Shagar village, the road was so flooded we could no longer drive, so we took a boat. We passed by rooftops of submerged buildings and homes. Businesses were destroyed and the inventories had been washed away. Crops were destroyed; the contaminated water will create agricultural problems for future seasons.

We traveled to further remote areas to distribute hygiene kits, kitchen sets and household sets to displaced people who had registered with Islamic Relief. A few elderly women, who had arrived at the camp after our initial tent distribution, were frustrated with us for distributing hygiene kits when they had not yet received tents.

Word had spread about the camp, but we did not have enough supplies for the new arrivals.

Waiting Weeks for Help
Remote villages are still in dire need of food. Some have been waiting for weeks and if they don’t get food soon, the situation may get out of control. The aid effort cannot cope with so many people in such a huge geographical area.

In the blazing heat, we were fasting out of choice, but many people there had no choice; they had no food.

I returned to Lahore with a heavy heart. It took a day and a half by road, boat and by foot to reach these people. Not enough people are making that journey; many more need to.

Press Conference with Cricketers
On Monday, I traveled to Karachi to attend a press conference about Islamic Relief’s response to the floods in Pakistan. The press conference was organized by Pakistani cricketers to raise awareness of the need for aid in flood-devastated areas.

Many questions were asked about the lack of trust many donors have that their donations will actually reach those in need. We tried to address their concerns and remind them about the great need for bringing relief to flood victims.

Act now to save lives.
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