Sunday, August 15, 2010

What's happening in Pakistan?

For those of you unaware, I've composed some information on the devastating floods that are affecting Pakistan as we speak. The information compiled below is from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and Acumen Fund, a "non-profit global venture fund that uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of global poverty," The founder, Jacqueline Novogratz, wrote The Blue Sweater. It is a thought-provoking message on changing the concepts of philanthropy.

OCHA Report:

PESHAWAR, 8 August 2010 (IRIN) - For the past 10 days, torrential monsoon rainfall has killed more than 1,600 people inflicted widesperad damage across the country, with the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) suffering the greatest losses, federal authorities and aid agencies say.
Estimates vary over the number of people affected by the floods. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on 8 August four million had been affected, while some media reports suggest up to 14 million.
“It’s just impossible to live there. Government officials are helping only their own supporters. Our house has been virtually destroyed and the camps are dismal,” Umair Khan, from Umerzai, the worst-hit union council (administrative unit) in Charsadda, told IRIN.

Sanitary conditions in the Nowshera and Charsadda districts of KP have been described by aid workers as “alarming”.

“We know it’s not clean, but there is no other water available. Even taps are not working,” teenager Hashim Khan told IRIN.
The lack of clean drinking water has long been a problem in parts of the country. A 2007 World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) report, Pakistan’s Waters at Risk, says 250,000 children die every year from drinking contaminated water.
Wells, streams and springs have been contaminated, as has ground water. People are forced to drink from stagnant pools, contaminated by human waste and dead animals.

Aid workers are warning of illness and deaths from water-borne diseases, which are expected to increase rapidly.
“There could be a second wave of deaths due to water-borne diseases if we don’t act fast enough to provide safe drinking water,” Maurizio Giuliano, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Pakistan, told IRIN. He said over one million people were in need of clean water and 430,000 water purification tablets had been distributed so far.

I received this email from Acumen Fund talking about legitimate organizations performing sustainable development work in the region.
"Acumen Fund is deeply committed to Pakistan, where we have worked since 2002, but we are not directly involved in relief work. While many organizations are doing extraordinary work in Pakistan right now, here are four organizations that we recommend you consider supporting in their Pakistan flood relief efforts:

* Rural Support Program Network
The Rural Support Program Network (RSPN) is a national organization and the largest non-government network of rural development programs in Pakistan. RSPN's partners have worked extensively in disaster relief efforts in Pakistan, including the 2005 Earthquake. RSPN is collecting donations for flood affected families. Donations will be provided to affected families through the on-ground network of RSPN's partners, including SRSO that is headed by Dr. Sono Khangharani, a long time Acumen friend.

* Kashf Foundation
Kashf Foundation is one of the largest microfinance organization in Pakistan and an Acumen investee. Kashf will be distributing relief packages to 10,000 households in the most affected areas. Given Kashf Foundation's focus on provide sustainable livelihoods, the next phase of rehabilitation will involve support through access to financial services so that affected households can rebuild their income streams. To make a donation, contact CEO Roshaneh Zafar via her assistant at

* International Rescue Committee
The International Rescue Committee is responding to the devastating floods in Pakistan. With a robust network of local staff and partners already on the ground, and 30 years of experience working in Pakistan, the IRC is well-positioned to provide shelter, clean water, sanitation, and essential supplies to those who have fled the rising waters.

* The Citizens Foundation (TCF)
TCF is a non-profit organization set up in 1995 by a group of citizens concerned with the dismal state of education in Pakistan. Although its focus is on education, TCF was actively involved in relief efforts after the earthquake and is once again mobilizing resources to contribute towards the flood relief efforts. To give to TCF in the US, follow this link.
As part of my coursework for the Summer Institute on Global Affairs at NYU, we visited the International Rescue Committee and heard first hand the diligent work being done mostly by trained professionals from the respective host-countries. This is an absolutely necessary for the reconstruction following this crisis.
On a more personal note, a dear friend of mine has worked extensively with The Citizens Foundation, a Pakistani organization whose focus is improving education in Pakistan. She has provided them detailed information on why it is important, and how to make secular, primary education accessible to rural Pakistanis. This is also immensely important in this catastrophe, as some of the most vulnerable victims to disaster are children.
Long Term
Ask yourself, "Why are these floods happening?" A statement provided in the OCHA reported, "melting glaciers have contributed more water to the lake," and coupled with more intense weather patterns, obviously produces a deadly mixture. Yet even with these salients, the effects of global climate change are still being disputed. Perhaps it is because we have yet to witness such a cataclysmic disaster in our own back-yards. If this is the case, then what was Hurricane Katrina? We must begin realizing that the environment around us is changing, and therefore we must change! I've heard it argued that these are natural phenomena and therefore we are hopeless to their effects. Have we not learned from centuries of adaptation? Seen species go extinct because of their inability to do so? Humans are not immune from the natural world, and if we take this attitude of "business as usual," we will suffer. It's happening now, and who is suffering?
Do something about it. Act now. Be environmentally conscious. And let us try to be proactive about protecting those hit hardest by increasingly frequent natural disasters.

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