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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Anwar Khan: Pakistan Emergency is "the Tip of the Iceberg"

Islamic Relief USA’s VP of Fund Development Anwar Khan returns to Pakistan for the second time since severe flooding in late July marginalized millions of people and spread hunger, disease and homelessness throughout the country. Read about his latest journey below and follow his live updates via Twitter: @AnwarKhan_IRUSA.

Sunday morning started at 4 a.m. for me with a flight to Multan via Lahore. The flight was delayed, and I recalled last month when our flight also was cancelled -- we ended up driving 10 hours to reach Muzaffargarh.

We arrived at the newly-established Multan office at 1:30 pm. The office, which is currently based out of a hotel room, was opened by Islamic Relief after the floods. It has 28 staff members working there.

More than 43 percent of Pakistan's wheat production comes from Multan. Wheat, and other crops like cotton, has been drastically affected by the floods. For many people affected by the floods, the emergency is only the tip of the iceberg. Underneath is a history of chronic poverty, inaccess to education, social injustice, and other issues.

In Muzaffargarh the water has receded, but a combination of salt and sand residue have rendered the land incapacitated for irrigation.

Food, kitchen sets and household sets have been distributed by Islamic Relief in Muzaffargarh. Medical camps have been set up and preparations for permanent shelter are being made.

In Shagar, the road that was washed away has been rebuilt with difficulty. Water is receding and Islamic Relief is providing tankers of water so they don't have to drink dirty water. It is always wonderful to hear and see these improvements being made to help those who are in need. There are success stories and stories of human courage and endurance in this tragedy. It does not mean we should become lax in our response, but it is always good to know that we are making a difference.

The government told local camp residents that they had until September 15 to go home. After that time they would be given no more aid in the camps. Many of the camps have closed as people have left. For most who returned, their homes are destroyed, and they want to begin reconstruction. However, they do not have the necessary materials or the money to purchase them.

Many men say they have to stay in the camp, because they are unable to work at the moment. The local residents told us they received 20,000 rupees (approximately $250) from the government, but that is not enough to rebuild their homes.

A “model” camp is about to be built across one of our camps. They initially told people it would be free but are now asking for 20,000 rupees to reserve a place in the camp.

In Shagar last month I met some local men who were filling contaminated water in containers for their families. This month in the same location I saw local men fishing with hooks and string. The situation continues to worsen, but in different ways -- ways that no longer make the headlines, but cause suffering nonetheless.

That night we flew to Karachi in preparation for our visit to Sindh in the morning.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hunger, Disease and Death Continue to Plague Flood Victims

Islamic Relief USA’s VP of Fund Development Anwar Khan returns to Pakistan for the second time since severe flooding in late July marginalized millions of people and spread hunger, disease and homelessness throughout the country. Read about his latest journey below and follow his live updates via Twitter: @AnwarKhan_IRUSA.

Being a humanitarian aid worker often involves work outside of the field: Strategic planning goes into delivering aid. I spent a portion of last Friday attending strategic planning meetings about Islamic Relief's flood response. Because we're nearing the end of the initial emergency phase, a greater emphasis will now be placed on long-term aid relief and rebuilding.

As we begin preparation for the winter and simultaneous rehabilitation in flood-affected areas, Islamic Relief Pakistan's capacity is being tested with work extending through all of Pakistan's major provinces.

Most non-governmental organizations are facing a shortage of experienced staff; many NGOs can only cope with one large-scale emergency a year, and such an emergency has already affected the world: The Haiti earthquake. The flooding in Pakistan has already affected more people than the Haiti earthquake, the 2004 tsunami and 2005 Pakistan earthquake combined.

I attended a press conference later that day to announce Islamic Relief's $20 million shipment of medical supplies that will benefit 300,000 people. Unfortunately, due to public demonstrations over a court ruling, media attendance was low, and this news wasn’t widely heard.

The Distribution of Aid
Due to security concerns, whether or not to travel to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) became an issue on Friday evening. But later, it was confirmed that we could go.

We set off Saturday morning for the Nowshera district in KPK. Nowshera was the first heavily-populated area that was devastated by the floods. Islamic Relief is working in the more rural areas of the district, providing aid to people who are more difficult to reach.
Aid is often given out where it is easier -- in the city or near a main road. But that causes a non-uniform distribution, where those in certain areas receive the bulk of the aid and the rest receive very little.

We visited an Islamic Relief medical clinic in Zando Banda that is providing medical care for thousands of locals. They are trying to detect diseases in the early stages, when treatment is easier and cheaper. Dr. Atif, a health professional in the clinic, explained that skin infections, eye infections, acute diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, malaria, and acute respiratory infections are spreading rapidly.

The clinic offers a female health professional who provides prenatal and post-natal care along with care for gynecological issues. Without a female health professional, many women in the area would seek medical treatment from female staff in other towns or would not have their medical needs met. A shortage of female medical staff in KPK has led to a lack of medical care for many women; that has been worsened by the current crisis.

“No One Ever Comes Back”
Later that day, I returned to Zarmina for the first time since my visit last month. The locals recognized me and were surprised to see me return. They said no one ever comes back.

The floods had decimated the village. More than 80 percent of the buildings were damaged or destroyed; many buildings had washed away. The roof of the girls' school had collapsed and the walls had caved. The boys' school has cracks in the wall and is in danger of collapsing. University students are staying home because they cannot afford this year's tuition.

Life savings were kept at home and they, literally, washed away.

Six-year-old Mairoon died of diarrhea and heat exhaustion four days before I arrived. Everyone knows that 1,600 people died as result of the floods, but how many have died from hunger and disease? No one knows that tragic figure. Mairoon was one more child to add to that number. Her death is the second of malnutrition and diarrhea that I have come across in the villages I visited in the last month.

And these are preventable diseases.

Local resident Shahzad Ahmed said that people have just become shells of their former selves and have died from within. They feel they are under a tremendous weight just trying to survive.

Later, in Ajab Bagh we saw land where homes were being prepared for reconstruction. Debris was being removed and new foundations being dug. Construction was scheduled to start the next day on the first ten houses. Islamic Relief is providing cement and other building materials, but the local residents will rebuild their own homes.

We traveled back to Islamabad to rest for tomorrow's journey to Muzaffargarh.

Please don’t forget the people of Pakistan. Donate generously.

Diary of an Aid Worker: Anwar Khan Returns to Flood-Devastated Pakistan

Islamic Relief USA’s VP of Fund Development Anwar Khan returns to Pakistan for the second time since severe flooding in late July marginalized millions of people and spread hunger, disease and homelessness throughout the country. Read about his latest journey below and follow his live updates via Twitter: @AnwarKhan_IRUSA.

On the morning of my departure I was rushing to get ready and pick up my medicine and other items before the flight. Since I returned from my trip to Pakistan last month, I have been very busy between work and family commitments. Alhamdulillah, I arrived in time for the flight.

I received an email on the way to the airport which reported an attack on an aid convoy in Pakistan. Two of the convoy’s staff members were knocked unconscious and had to be taken to a hospital. People are starving and desperate and some are willing to do anything to get food, even if it means hurting others. This happens around the world during crises and the email was a reminder that as relief workers travel to aid others, they themselves may be victims of harm.

We train, plan, prepare and pray that the distributions go smoothly. This attack reinforced concerns of security, the great necessity of aid, and the importance of careful aid distribution. It is not as easy as throwing food from trucks. That provides dramatic shots for the media, but does not help the elderly women at the back of the mob who don't get aid, because younger, stronger men pushed their way to the front.

I spent the following day in travel on my way to Pakistan. I had a couple of hours to spare in Abu Dhabi airport to peruse the stores in between flights. They had items from around the world, but were charging premium prices. A small water bottle cost $4. I compared the luxuries available at the airport with the scenes I anticipate seeing in the next week.

We plan to travel through Pakistan from north to south; from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to southern Punjab and on to Sindh. The water has receded in the north and people are trying to return home; many are finding that their homes don't exist any more. In the south, the water is still high in some areas. We are still in the early emergency phase in the south.

It has been two months since the start of the flooding and there are still millions who have not received the aid they need. There are still many people who do not realize there are even floods in Pakistan.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hunger, Disease and Homelessness Afflict Pakistan's Flood Victims

Islamic Relief USA’s CEO Abed Ayoub is in Pakistan assessing the current humanitarian situation, meeting with other relief organizations and visiting Islamic Relief’s aid distribution sites.

I’ve never seen this amount of destruction before in my life. Today, my IR USA colleague Adnan Ansari and I visited Sindh and traveled to Jati, a village in Thatta District located near the Arabian Sea. At least 10,000 families occupy Jati, but Islamic Relief is the first and only non-governmental organization to enter and aid an area that was devastated by heavy flooding nearly two months ago.

The roads here are badly damaged and some are still underwater. They will take years and millions of dollars to rebuild.

As we drive along, I can see people sleeping in tents next to the roads.

Much of the flood-affected areas are agricultural which drastically reduces the amount of food available and will also marginalize the availability of food for a long time to come. Sheer desperation from a lack of food has led many people to fish through standing contaminated water in order to obtain a few morsels to eat.

Islamic Relief USA delivered a $20 million aid shipment of medical supplies that has arrived at Islamic Relief Pakistan’s warehouse. The aid shipment, which will be distributed to needy people by Islamic Relief staff members, includes medications that will help treat waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, skin infections and malaria, and also includes anesthetics and antibacterial drugs such as penicillin.

I spoke with a few doctors yesterday who said they are seeing many cases of skin and diarrheal diseases. The severity of medical cases will only increase, especially in Sindh where it will take another two months for the water to rescind. And with mosquito-breeding season rapidly approaching, the threat of increased malaria cases is causing a great amount of anxiety. The situation is dire.

The people of Pakistan are still depending on your support for survival, now more than ever.

Please donate now.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why do you give Udhiyah / Qurbani?

At Islamic Relief USA, we are curious: Why do you give Udhiyah / Qurbani? To help feed the hungry? To please Allah? To share the joy of Eid? We want to know!
Share your answers, complete with your age and city that you live in, no later than Friday September 17, and you have a chance to win Maher Zain’s hit CD, Thank You Allah.
Creativity is welcome!
Please submit a high-resolution image of yourself [headshots only please] with your answers, if possible. Make sure the image is captured with a plain or monotone background.
Please e-mail your submission to by September 17 in order to be eligible for a Maher Zain CD. Your answers may be shared online and in printed material for our upcoming Udhiyah / Qurbani campaign.
Udhiyah / Qurbani is the the Islamic tradition of honoring the Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) and distributing fresh meat to the less fortunate on Eid al-Adha. Every year, Islamic Relief helps distribute thousands of pounds of meat on the behalf of donors worldwide.
Thank you for your support! We pray Allah continues to bless you and your family.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Eid Mubarak!

From the entire Islamic Relief USA family, we would like to wish you and your families Eid Mubarak. We pray that all of your fasts and supplications are accepted and that Allah (swt) blesses you in abundance for your generosity and support.

Please click here to read a special message from our CEO, Abed Ayoub.

Children's Ramadan Giving Stories

This Ramadan, many children in the U.S. were touched by scenes of devastating flooding in Pakistan and decided to donate their own life-savings or raise money for a cause they felt passionately about. Read The Irfan Brothers and A Letter from Zain's Mother below.

The Irfan Brothers

Murad Irfan, 9, and his brothers Luqman, 6, and Sinan, 4, stopped by our Va. office last Thursday to donate $200 for Pakistan’s flood victims. Read their giving story as told by their mother, Inayet Sahin.

My sons had been collecting sadaqa all Ramadan and were looking for someplace to donate it to. They only had a couple of dollars because they had been collecting change from around the house. They wanted to collect more and were discussing how they could do it.

They decided to make some drawings and sell them, as well as some of their handmade pottery and books. They were up to $10 by the time they sold everything in their ‘store,’ but they still wanted to raise more and were discussing other methods of fundraising.

The night of the Pakistan Floods Emergency Fundraising Dinner in Alexandria, Va., we had a mawlid at our house, read Surah Yasin and a made a special dua for the people of Pakistan. Since we were not attending the fundraising dinner, my sons suggested that everyone bring their donations to our house. We sent out a message to everyone coming over and that is how they collected the rest.

A Letter from Zain’s Mother

Dear Islamic Relief Worldwide:

My son, Zaid, had his 6th birthday in the beginning of this month and he invited some of his friends. Instead of presents he requested his friends to make a donation towards the victims of flood in Pakistan. I hope you can forward this money to the people in need in Pakistan as quickly as possible. JazakAllah Khair for all your efforts.


Mona Shah

11-Year-Old Raised $2,400 for Pakistan's Flood Victims

This Ramadan, many children in the U.S. were touched by scenes of devastating flooding in Pakistan and decided to donate their own life-savings or raise money for a cause they felt passionately about. Read Nilo Ahmadzada's letter written about her son, Arif, who raised $2,400 for flood victims.

The devastation of the floods in Pakistan has affected millions of people. Along with all of you and your families, my family has been watching and hearing of the damage and loss that has come upon the people of Pakistan, yet my 11-year-old son, Arif, seems to be affected more by the devastation than his siblings.

One day last week, Arif sat next to me and said,

"Mom, I really want to do something to help the flood victims in Pakistan.“

Upon hearing his words of concern, we sat down and started to brainstorm on how he could help. We came up with the idea of setting up a table at our local Masjid, the Islamic Center of Long Island (ICLI), Eid Bazaar. We were able to get Designs of Dubai, a local vendor, to donate scarves and shawls to the cause. For every $10 donation, a scarf would be given as a gift.

The anticipation and excitement in my son’s face was priceless, as we began to make preparations for his table. Along with his brothers, Arif made a sign and began organizing the donated scarves.

On Sunday August 28th 2010, with great enthusiasm, Arif set up his table at ICLI’s Eid Bazaar with no help from me. The temperature was 95 degrees but felt more like 102 degrees. Picture an 11 year-old boy, sitting behind a table of hijabs, waiting for buyers to approach, just so he can make a plea for flood victims in Pakistan. As I watched Arif from afar, I couldn't help but be proud of him.

Arif raised $362 that day for the flood victims, but his goal was to raise $1,000 and he was sad for not meeting his goal. When his Aunt Ruia asked him about the experience, Arif seemed a bit disheartened.

Arif and Ruia, brainstormed on how they could raise the rest of the funds in order for Arif to meet his goal. They decided Arif would make a donation box and take it with him to a family iftar the next evening and make his plea for the flood victims.

At the iftar, he was able to raise another $838. Every member of the family was touched by Arif’s concern; So much so that even the other young kids donated whatever money they had in their pockets.

Monday morning, I called Brother Waleed Gabr at Islamic Relief USA’s New Jersey office. I was informed by him that Islamic Relief USA donors would match Arif’s $1200 through the Matching Funds Program. He also informed me of a $50,000 donor-matching fundraising challenge.

Thus far, by the grace of Allah, they have surpassed it and have since raised the goal. Islamic Relief USA donors will match Arif’s $1,200 for the flood victims, making Arifs contribution $2,400. I pray that Allah (swt) accepts my little boy’s efforts and the efforts of all those people who donated to this cause. Ameen.

My son inspired me to do something and I pray that his story inspires you and your kids too, insha’Allah. Please remember your brothers and sisters in Pakistan in this blessed month of Ramadan.

To contribute to the matching funds program, contact

To donate online, click here.

-- Nilo Ahmadzada

A Giving Story: Noor and Usman Saleh

This Ramadan, many children in the U.S. were touched by scenes of devastating flooding in Pakistan and decided to donate their own life-savings or raise money for a cause they felt passionately about. Read Noor and Usman's giving story as told by their mother, Yasmine Saleh.

Two children who sold chocolate bars to raise money for the 2005 Pakistan earthquake started focusing their efforts on another emergency this Ramadan. Noor Saleh, 9, and Usman Saleh, 6, were devastated to hear about Pakistan’s recent floods that have affected over 20 million people. They wanted to do something to help.

Their parents, Muhammad and Yasmine Saleh, had blank Eid cards at home, so they decided to decorate and sell them for $5 each to raise money for flood victims. Last Friday, they took the cards to Woodlands Islamic Center in Texas where, in addition to purchasing the cards from the children, the center’s patrons started handing the children additional donations for the cause.

Noor and Usman have raised $660 so far and continue to make and sell Eid cards in hopes of helping more flood victims.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Day of Dignity in Baltimore: 'Today, You Made Me Feel Like a Somebody'

A sign on the side of the road spoke the truth of the day: “You respect me, I’ll respect you.” It was painted in white on a piece of scrap lumber, leaning up against a fence. Across the street were boarded-up row houses, a few occupied by people. Though the day was bright and a breeze was blowing, the mood in that battered part of Baltimore was subdued.

But as I neared Masjid ul-Haqq, where Islamic Relief USA’s Day of Dignity event was held on Saturday over the Labor Day weekend, the atmosphere changed to one of love, respect and friendship. A long table in front of the mosque held trays of food – spaghetti, garlic bread, fried chicken, and other things. People lined up for meals dished out by Day of Dignity volunteers and then received bags full of items to help them survive the winter.

"It’s very good, very useful stuff," said Robert Wilson, one of the beneficiaries of event. “Islamic Relief, they treat me with respect.”

Nearly 400 people came out for the event, receiving food, socks, soap, underwear, clothing, notebooks, pencils, and other school supplies. Many, clutching their bags, headed over to the picnic tables nearby to eat the food they had received.

-- Dilshad D. Ali

To read more of the post, click here to go to the Day of Dignity blog.

Day of Dignity 2010: Scenes from Baltimore

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

So-Cal Event Raises more than $300,000 for Pakistan Flood Victims

With assistance from the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California and dozens of dedicated volunteers, Islamic Relief USA hosted an emergency iftar in Anaheim on September 4.

Nearly 500 people gathered to help raise more than $300,000 in support of Pakistan's flood victims.

Islamic Relief USA's VP of Fund Development, Anwar Khan, had just returned from Pakistan and shared his experiences with the attendees.

Imam Zaid Shakir, Sheikh Yasir Fazaga, Sheikh Muzammil Siddiqui and other notable community leaders also addressed the crowd.

Sheikh Muhammad Faqih, who was among the speakers, helped raise $105,000 through text messages during the event.

Click here to read about Islamic Relief's efforts to aid Pakistan's flood victims.

You can help too. Donate today.

--Zeyad Maasarani