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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Little Aid Equals Big Problems: Diminishing aid and supplies worsening situation in Pakistan’s flood-affected areas

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

Pakistan’s disastrous floods have affected more people than the 2004 tsunami, 2005 Pakistan earthquake and this year’s Haiti earthquake combined. They have brought with them threats of diseases, including acute respiratory infection, scabies, diarrhea, cholera, and malaria – to what extent, we cannot even determine yet. They have destroyed lives, property and livelihood. But worst of all, they have garnered little international attention and subsequently been met with rapidly-diminishing aid.

I’m currently in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan-administered Kashmir, where I originally arrived to assess flood damage in Neelam Valley, an area of beautiful landscapes set along the Neelam River; now, all roads to the valley are blocked off due to landslides and relief aid can’t reach the people who live there. Traveling north along Jhelum River to arrive here, I saw many obstructed roads – some that had just been rebuilt after the earthquake of 2005.

This isn’t the first time my trip was cancelled to effects of the aftermath of flooding: I was planning to go to Sibi, Balochistan a few days ago to assess Islamic Relief’s efforts in the area, but my trip was cancelled due to security reasons preventing non-nationals from entering the province. Due to a lack of aid and supplies, security is becoming a major issue. In many places where aid distributions are occurring, riots are breaking out because the amount of aid is so little and goods, inaccessible.

The scope of flooding effects is much greater than originally anticipated. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), with whom I met recently, around 10 million people aren’t being provided any food or clean water. At least two million people are homeless, but food and shelter are becoming secondary concerns as water, sanitation and healthcare create more chronic and pressing issues.

According to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, many dams around the country are reaching full capacity; any further rain could cause greater flooding if a dam overflows or worse if it breaks. Rains are still occurring and another wave of heavy rain is anticipated in Sindh.

Punjab has now become the province worst-affected by flooding. According to OCHA, 3.1 million people in Punjab are in dire need of assistance.

The numbers affected are continuing to increase and the situation is continuing to deteriorate. Your support is critical to the survival of millions of people in Pakistan.

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