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Monday, October 4, 2010

From Orphans in the Slums of Rawalpindi to the Once-Lush Fields of Southern Punjab, Anwar Khan's Journey Continues

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.

Whenever I conduct field visits, even on emergency trips, I try to make time to visit the orphans we sponsor. Last Wednesday, the Islamic Relief team and I went to the slums of Rawalpindi where the stench of open sewage was prevalent in the air and entire families were living in one or two-bedroom homes.

The first orphan we visited, Kiran, lives in a two-bedroom home with her mother and sister that was damaged by flooding four years ago. The roof is in poor condition, with water leaking into the kitchen whenever it rains. The kitchen is now out of use. Kiran's mother is too ill to work and sponsorship helps Kiran's family pay for food and school uniforms, along with paying down the debt on the cost of repairs to the house from previous flood damage.

The second orphan we visited, Pari, is originally from Afghanistan and lives in Rawalpindi with her mother and brother. As in Kiran's case, Pari's mother is also too sick to work. Her brother works, but his income does not even cover the cost of food.
I visit these orphans so as not to forget their plight amidst the destruction and devastation in Pakistan. It helps to fuel our fire to help them as much as we are trying to help the flood victims.

Helping Many Areas at Once

The following day, I had meetings with Islamic Relief Pakistan and our international staff to see how we can improve our services to those we help. IR Pakistan is planning an integrated approach where they will be assisting in several sectors simultaneously. We are trying this approach in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh. These are our newer offices, and we already have other work in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Baluchistan.

Traveling to Lahore on Friday, I saw the lush agricultural fields of northern and central Punjab contrast with the devastated fields of southern Punjab. The floods have mostly affected those in smaller towns and agricultural areas. None of Pakistan's major cities were affected; otherwise the number of flood victims would have been much greater.

On Saturday we went to Karachi just as our shipment of tents arrived from Dubai and began the process of being cleared by customs for distribution in Sindh. The shipment is anticipated to be cleared by customs on Monday and sent by road to our warehouse in Thatta. We have been told that the food purchased in Karachi was not distributed today but will be tomorrow. I wanted the distribution to begin before we arrived with the cricket player Moin Khan. I did not want us to do the first distribution, but it appears that will be the case tomorrow.

Traveling daily through flooded areas throughout the country has tired me some, but this is just a part of the work I love. I am blessed to eventually return to a home with running water and a refrigerator stocked with food. Millions of people in Pakistan do not have these luxuries.
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