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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

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.
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