Endless monsoon rains turned massive floods turned humanitarian crisis.
Pakistan, a country working to rebuild itself on all fronts, must now struggle with providing food, clothing and shelter to the millions affected by the devastating floods – the worst in the country’s history since the 1920s. 1500 people have been killed, 3.5 million homeless, scores missing and countless traumatized and in shock.
As a Pakistani abroad, the images from the impoverished and ravaged regions bring tears to my eyes. I see fathers, with shalwars rolled up to their knees and children sitting atop their shoulders, carrying what is left of the family’s possessions. I see women with anguish etched in every line of their faces, staring at the cameras with bitter eyes, as if to say “Did we need this?” Most cutting of all are the images of children, in torn clothing, cold and crying. I feel helpless.
The Prime Minister has set up a relief fund. Members of the government have given one month’s salary. Donations are coming from all over the world, the United Nations, the US government, and from private citizens. I know many Pakistanis abroad who have given freely and generously, in the hopes that some help can be given to the millions of suffering people.
We cannot drop the ball on this crisis. Through the heartbreak, I know that the best way to serve the victims is to work towards a concrete plan for the days, weeks, months and years ahead. We have to understand that entire villages are submerged under water. People have lost everything. We have to provide them with a safe place to live, enough healthy food to eat, clean water to drink and warm clothing. We should seriously consider the fact that the list of the missing increases daily and different news outlets are reporting wildly varying numbers. We have to have an account of the survivors and set up a system of tracking people down, perhaps even paving the way for families to be united. A comprehensive list of all the people we can help would help greatly, not only with helping people finding each other but as a way for the government to know exactly what is going on on the ground. In the weeks ahead, we have to provide more permanent places and livelihoods. Medical teams must be dispatched, and supplies should be continuously provided. There are terrifying fears of cholera outbreaks or people dying from the cold or hunger. We absolutely cannot let that fear become the expected outcome.
This is a chance for the country to come in and take care of her future. This is a chance for Pakistanis to forget the political squabbling that is mistaken for substantial issues and focus on a very real, very immediate crisis. We have to realize the vital task ahead of us and do our best, as a duty to the country and to the people.