Floods in Pakistan – Voices from the Ground

Guest Blogger - Roshaneh Zafar, Founder and Managing Director Kashf Foundation, Pakistan Dr Yunus once told me that if we wait for the ideal world to happen we will never be able to bring about change.  I am beginning to feel that this is exactly what is happening with respect to the response of the international community to the floods in Pakistan.  We are searching for the ideal mechanism to funnel resources to Pakistan, while millions of families are going hungry each day.  The utopian solution is not going to come our way till we begin to stretch ourselves and really go out on a limb to respond to this crisis of unimaginable scale.

Flooding in Pakistan

UK Deputy Prime Minister Nicholas Clegg stated after a visit to Pakistan that the "floods in Pakistan are beyond our imagination and the response of the international community has been disappointing."  As a Pakistani who has been working in the field of development for the past 20 years, I am amazed at the disconnect in the way the world sees us and the reality on the ground.  I was very pleased to hear Nicholas Burns on BBC last night on the Nick Gowing hour, where for once someone in the west spoke up to state that Pakistanis are not supporters of radicalism and fundamentalism.  And that like any other people we want a better future for our nation, we want peace, security, equity and choice.  It is not a fault in our gene pool, as some thinkers seem to imply that we are facing such challenging times, its partly the fault of our geo-politics and definitely resulting from our inability to mentor, grow and develop leadership at all levels.  However, these issues are not insurmountable and as Nicholas Burns said last night, we are a resilient people who have faced the invasions of the Greeks, the Mongols and anyone else who choose to traverse this narrow strip of land.

At this watershed moment it is important to leave our biases behind and acknowledge the work that has been done on the ground to address this natural disaster – from civil society institutions to the government to the army, each arm of society is struggling to meet up to the challenges of this occasion, however we must also acknowledge that the tail of this problem is a very long one and does not simply warrant a relief operation but a long term strategy for reconstruction. At Kashf Foundation our current strategy has 3 main phases, we are focusing on the first phase which involves targeting 10,000 families with immediate relief packages.  We have targeted two villages in the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa area at the moment covering 250 families, while 1,500 relief packages are being dispatched this week to the South of Punjab.  We are also planning to reach out to another 2,000 families in Southern Sindh by early September, where the flood is still ongoing and will continue our relief work in all these three areas.  In the second part of this phase, we also plan to build 500 homes in Southern Punjab, since the housing stock of almost all flood affected families has been lost.  We hope to follow this up with a US$30 million reconstruction fund where we will assist families to resettle through an initial income grant programme combined with a sustainable livelihoods approach through microfinance services.  The focus of the reconstruction phase will be on women and children in particular, since equity and growth can only take place when women are equal partners in development decisions.  We will also be focus on restoring basic infrastructure like schools and water resources.  Donations can be made to our relief programme at http://www.floodrelief.pk/kf/. From the perspective of the country it is very important that not only more funds are provided to meet the challenges of the current hour, but further resources need to be put into long term investments in infrastructure and human development and a move towards a moratorium on the country’s international debt needs to be made. All this cannot be achieved without the active involvement and participation of the government since the magnitude of the problem is so great. That being said, it is also important to ensure that adequate measures for accountability be put into place to ensure the funds are utilized well.  The current situation warrants a Edward de Bono style response, we all have to put on our 6 thinking hats, roll up our sleeves, jettison our prejudices,  and get cracking to help those who need our support most. I urge you to join me in this effort to build a better, more humane world.

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