Latest Updates

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.
blog comments powered by Disqus