Archive for the ‘ Pakistan Floods 2010 ’ Category

Pakistan Accepts Flood Aid Money From Rival India

By Issam Ahmed for The Christian Science Monitor

Pakistan has accepted an offer of $5 million of flood aid from neighbor and longtime rival India, in a move that could spark a political backlash at home.

In an interview with Indian news channel NDTV, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi described the offer of aid, made last week, as a “very welcome initiative” which the government of Pakistan has agreed to accept, after taking some time to decide.

But it would have been better to say “thanks, but no thanks,” according to Liaqat Baloch, secretary general of Pakistan’s second-largest religious party, the Jamaat-e-Islami.

“Pakistan has many disputes with India, with reference to Kashmir, and the Indian Army engaging in brutality in occupied Kashmir,” he says. “In the past, when Pakistan tried to support India after their natural disasters, India never accepted. Therefore it would be better if our government refused the aid with a big thank you.”

Al Khidmet foundation, Jamaat-e-Islami’s charitable wing, has been one of the most visible aid organizations in the flood-affected areas.

The two countries have made efforts in recent months to repair bilateral relations, which took a plunge following the 2008 Mumbai attacks. India blames those attacks on Pakistan-backed militants. The two countries have fought three full-scale wars, most recently in 1999.

The United States had urged Pakistan to accept India’s offer of aid earlier this week. When Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called his Pakistani counterpart to offer his condolences following the worst natural disaster in Pakistan’s history, it was an event widely reported in the Pakistan media.

“In such times of natural disasters, all of South Asia should rise to the occasion and extend every possible help to the people of Pakistan affected by the tragedy,” Mr. Singh said, according to a statement released by his office.

According to Badar Alam, editor of Pakistan’s Herald magazine, the amount of aid pledged is “symbolic, but its effect is immense. It’s a good confidence building measure between the two countries.”

But, he warns, Pakistan’s religious parties will try to spin the move “as a sign of weakness.”

“They will see it as a capitulation to India, that our own government is so weak we have been forced to accept help from the historic enemy,” says Mr. Alam.

Mosharraf Zaidi, a columnist for Pakistan’s The News, termed the decision brave: “It’s a tremendous gesture, very mature. India should be commended for donating it and Pakistan should be commended for accepting it.”

“The whole idea in an emergency is you’ll have the Jamat ud Dawas [the charitable wing of banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba] and you’ll have competing powers working almost in tandem to support people. It shows that no matter what our value systems, we have to work together right now,” he adds.

Some 20 million people are affected by Pakistan’s worst flooding in recent memory; Pakistan’s government estimates around 1,600 deaths and millions homeless or displaced. The United Nations appealed to the international community to donate $460 million in emergency assistance last week, and has met half of that goal. Yesterday the US increased its flood aid to Pakistan from $80 million to $150 million.

-Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note- It is a good decision by the Pakistani government to accept the aid offer from India. Not only will this be a confidence building measure between the two nations, it will save countless lives, and no nation is too proud to save the lives of its citizens.

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U.S. Strategy in Pakistan Is Upended by Floods

By Mark Landler for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The floods in Pakistan have upended the Obama administration’s carefully honed strategy there, confronting the United States with a vast humanitarian crisis and militant groups determined to exploit the misery, in a country that was already one of its thorniest problems.

While the administration has kept its public emphasis on the relief effort, senior officials are busy assessing the longer-term strategic impact. One official said the disaster would affect virtually every aspect of the relationship between the United States and Pakistan, and could have ripple effects on the war in Afghanistan and the broader American battle against Al Qaeda.

With Pakistan’s economy suffering a grievous blow, the administration could be forced to redirect parts of its $7.5 billion economic aid package for Pakistan to urgent needs like rebuilding bridges, rather than more ambitious goals like upgrading the rickety electricity grid.

Beyond that, the United States will be dealing with a crippled Pakistani government and a military that, for now, has switched its focus from rooting out insurgents to plucking people from the floodwaters. The Pakistani authorities, a senior American official said, have been “stretched to the breaking point” by the crisis. Their ragged response has fueled fears that the Taliban will make gains by stepping in to provide emergency meals and shelter.

“It certainly has security implications,” said another official who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss internal policy deliberations. “An army that is consumed by flood relief is not conducting counterinsurgency operations.”

On Thursday, the United Nations will convene a special meeting devoted to the floods, hoping to galvanize what has been a lackluster global response. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to announce that American public aid has surpassed $100 million, an official said.

“We’re obviously not oblivious to the political and strategic implications of this catastrophe, but right now, we are fully focused on the emergency relief effort and trying to get a good assessment of the needs,” said the administration’s special representative to the region, Richard C. Holbrooke.

Noting that several weeks remain in the monsoon season, Mr. Holbrooke said, “Worse may be yet to come.”

The disaster comes after a period in which the administration seemed to have made strides in repairing the American relationship with Pakistan. Mrs. Clinton visited Islamabad in July with a long list of pledges, including the upgrading of several power plants and a plan to promote Pakistani mangoes. Now, these projects seem almost beside the point.

“Before, there were power plants in need of refurbishment,” said Daniel S. Markey, senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Now there are power plants underwater.”

In recent days, the United States has sent 15 helicopters, rescuing nearly 6,000 people. On Wednesday, military cargo planes delivered 60,000 pounds of food and other relief supplies, bringing total deliveries to 717,000 pounds. The speed and scale of the effort, officials in both countries said, have helped bolster the checkered American image in Pakistan.

In another hopeful sign, officials said Pakistan and India had been in close touch about the floodwaters, some of which are flowing into Pakistan from India. Such communication, between historic archenemies, could augur reduced tension in other areas, one of the officials said.

Against that, however, are the staggering dimensions of the disaster. A senior Pakistani official told the administration on Tuesday that the next flood surge was likely to inundate much of Punjab, the densely populated region that borders India and produces much of Pakistan’s food.

So far, this official said, the greatest damage has been in regions that are also hotbeds for Islamic insurgents, which has set back the army’s fight against extremist groups. Local governments in those places have largely collapsed, leaving the army as the only source of authority.

With 20 million people displaced from their homes, the Pakistani authorities are girding themselves for an immense migration to the major cities, which they fear could sow further instability.

“Americans have not yet registered the enormity of the crisis,” Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, said in a telephone interview from Islamabad, the capital.

Pakistani and American officials said reports of hard-line Islamic charities providing relief were exaggerated. One pointed out that the floods had hurt the insurgents as well: there was a report of small arms and ammunition belonging to a militant group floating in the water.

Still, people in both countries warned that if rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts bogged down, the Taliban and other militant groups would try to take advantage of it. “The real test is, can their government provide the most fundamental services?” said an administration official.

Parallels to this crisis are hard to find. One official cited the example of the Indonesian province of Aceh, which had been racked by a three-decade insurgency fought by the separatist Free Aceh Movement. After the tsunami swept through in 2004, killing 170,000 people, the separatists and the Indonesian government quickly signed a peace treaty, in August 2005.

There are, however, big differences between a localized separatist group and an international jihadist movement.

“If the flood proves to tilt the balance of power in Pakistan, it’s more likely to tilt toward the militants than toward the government,” said Bruce Riedel, a former intelligence official who helped the administration formulate its initial policy for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Already, Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, has been exposed to withering criticism at home for going on a trip to Europe during the early days of the flood. American officials said they were determined not to get drawn into the dispute, noting that in any event, Mr. Zardari had been stripped of many of his powers in a recent constitutional change.

Decisions on how the flood will affect American economic aid may be influenced by a trip to Pakistan by Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who co-sponsored the five-year nonmilitary assistance package with Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana.

Senator Kerry, accompanied by Dan Feldman, a deputy to Mr. Holbrooke, is scheduled to tour the flooded areas on Thursday. Mr. Kerry has said he is open to redirecting aid money, though some analysts said they were skeptical that Congress would approve additional financing. Military aid may also come under scrutiny, according to administration officials.

“Every dimension of our relationship — politics, economics, security — is going to see major shifts as a result of this historic disaster,” said Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, the White House coordinator for Afghanistan and Pakistan. “All the tools of diplomacy have to be examined in light of this new reality.”

Pakistan Floods: Why Should We Care?

By Ethan Casey for EthanCasey.com

Yesterday a non-Pakistani friend here in Seattle emailed me: “I wanted to ask you which you think would be the best organization to make a donation to for the current crisis in Pakistan. We usually give to MSF, but their website doesn’t seem to offer the opportunity to give specifically for Pakistan. Can you offer advice?”

This friend is British and greatly prefers British media outlets, but I need to believe that there are many Americans who also want to help flood victims in Pakistan – or who would want to, if they knew the scale and severity of the disaster.

Why don’t they know? We can, and I do, blame “the media,” but that’s unhelpful and ultimately a cop-out. Each of us individually has the opportunity and responsibility to be aware of every tragedy in our world, and we should be willing to exert ourselves to redress them. We’re all in this together. But the real problem is that there’s too much tragedy, and it’s happening too fast, and these days Americans are distracted and confused and worried about serious problems close to home, like our own jobs and mortgages.

This is understandable. But you need to know that all indicators are pointing toward an enormous, long-term human tragedy unfolding in Pakistan, and we need to do something about it, for several good reasons. The New York Times acknowledged one of these when – belatedly, in its first significant coverage of the floods that I noticed – it headlined an August 6 article “Hard-Line Islam Fills Void in Flooded Pakistan.”

A related point is that we Americans owe Pakistanis a measure of basic human respect and compassion, as well as gratitude specifically for the sacrifices they’ve made at our behest in several wars in Afghanistan. When we repay this debt, it will also redound to our benefit. “It’s high time we showed Pakistanis the best of America,” disaster relief specialist Todd Shea told me last year. “If you’re a true friend, you don’t run out on somebody when you don’t need them anymore. … Pakistanis don’t trust America anymore. We need to show Pakistanis who we really are.”

Todd Shea runs a charity hospital in the Pakistan-administered portion of the disputed region of Kashmir, where he has been working since the October 2005 earthquake that killed 80,000 people. He also responded urgently and effectively to the World Trade Center attack, the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the earthquake this January in Haiti. He’s currently on the ground in Pakistan, running medical camps and providing drinking water, food, and other relief. An August 11 update on his organization’s website suggests the scale of the challenge:

In a recent statement appealing for more aid to Pakistan, UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said: “While the death toll may be much lower than in some major disasters, taking together the vast geographical area affected, the numbers of people requiring assistance and the access difficulties currently affecting operations in many parts of the country, it is clear that this disaster is one of the most challenging that any country has faced in recent years.”

Thousands of people are camped out on roads, bridges and railway tracks – any dry ground they could find – often with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and perhaps a plastic sheet to keep off the rain. “I have no utensils. I have no food for my children. I have no money,” said one survivor, sitting on a rain-soaked road in Sukkur along with hundreds of other people. “We were able to escape the floodwaters, but hunger may kill us.” …

There is a desperate need to send more well-equipped medical teams to the flood-hit areas to prevent the further spread of disease. The victims of the flood have lost everything and cannot cope with potential epidemics on their own.

I’m writing this article because I live and work between two worlds: the mainstream North America that I come from, and the Pakistani immigrant community. My job is to help bridge the gulf in awareness and sympathy between those worlds. What I’m seeing right now is that Pakistani-Americans and their admirable and effective nonprofit groups are jumping once more into the breach, as they always do. And, as always, they’re confined – and confining themselves – to soliciting funds from each other.

The flooding is “well timed” in the sense that the fasting month of Ramadan has just begun, and many Muslims will be directing their annual zakat charity contributions toward flood relief. Pakistani-Americans are generally an affluent community, but there’s a limit to what they can do. Wealthy Pakistanis in Pakistan also need to help, and surely are helping. Just as important, we non-Pakistani Americans and Canadians must help. We also must somehow self-raise our own awareness, given the paucity of decent media coverage. This is important both for obvious-enough political reasons, and simply because it’s the right thing to do.

I see troubling contrasts between the outpouring of generosity and attention that followed the earthquake in Haiti and the averting of eyes from the flooding in Pakistan. I see several reasons for this: Haiti is nearby; the earthquake killed 200,000 or more people all at once. In addition, though, there’s the fact that Haiti is not a Muslim country. The earthquake fit right in with the story we were already telling ourselves about Haiti, which is all about poverty and tragedy. Dr. Paul Farmer sums it up pithily in the title of his book The Uses of Haiti. The uses of Pakistan are different. We need to move beyond the uses of both countries and toward understanding them accurately and respectfully, in their own terms. Our awareness of Haiti should be more political and of Pakistan less so, or differently so.

Anyway, back to my friend’s question. The short answer is that, as always, grassroots groups are more nimble and effective, and your money will be put to better use if you give it to groups that are nearer the ground. This is why the nonprofit groups founded and run by Pakistani-Americans are crucially important. I’m including links to several of these below, and I recommend them all.

I was jolted the other day when another friend suggested that being asked to donate to the excellent Islamic Medical Association of North America “could possibly turn some people off.” He’s probably right, but we goras need to get over our knee-jerk aversion to the word “Islamic.” Your doctor might be a member of IMANA. As a Haitian woman told Paul Farmer years ago, “Tout moun se moun” – all people are people. We’re all in this together.

Please contribute to flood relief in Pakistan through one of these organizations (listed in alphabetical order):

APPNA    www.appna.org/

The Citizens Foundation   www.thecitizensfoundation.org/

Developments in Literacy   www.dil.org/

Edhi Foundation    www.edhifoundation.com

Human Development Foundation     www.hdf.com/

IMANA    www.imana.org/

Islamic Relief USA    www.islamicreliefusa.org/ 

Relief International   www.ri.org/

SHINE Humanity   www.shinehumanity.org/

UNICEF    www.unicef.org/

Rescuing Pakistan’s Flood Survivors

Recovery efforts are underway in Pakistan where monsoon rains and severe flooding washed away tens of thousands of homes, killing thousands and leaving millions homeless.

How you can help? A number of charities are mobilizing medical, shelter and humanitarian aid, responding to the great need for flood survivors’ immediate needs.

AmeriCares emergency relief experts are working to send medical assistance and other aid to the flood-affected region in Pakistan. They are accepting online donations as well as phone donations at  1-800-486-HELP (4357)

British Red Cross is accepting donations of goods to the Pakistan Flood Appeal. Monetary donations in pounds can also be made online or by calling 0845 054 7206 in England.

CARE is supporting the distribution of emergency supplies and providing aid to health teams and mobile clinics in the affected communities in Pakistan. You can help by making an online donation.

Catholic Relief Services is currently organizing shipments of humanitarian aid to Balochistan, one of the affected areas. They are also sending emergency shelter kits and hygiene supplies to other flood-affected regions in Pakistan. Donations to their Emergency Relief fund are being accepted online and by phone at   1-800-736-3467.       

Concern Worldwide US is responding by sending emergency teams to the region, and they have launched their Pakistan Emergency Flood Appeal. They are working to provide about 9,000 families with kitchen sets and hygiene kits, clean water, temporary sanitation, and dry rations of food. Online donations can be made dollars, euros and pounds.

Church World Service is distributing food packages and shelter material for flood-affected families in Balochistan, Khan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as well as mobilizing a health unit to offer emergency medical assistance in Mansehra. Your donation can be made online and by phone at  1-800.297-1516        

Direct Relief International is providing emergency medical aid to healthcare partners responding to disaster in Pakistan. Donations to their Emergency Response fund can me made online and by calling  1-800-676-1638    

Doctor’s Without Borders is supporting basic health units in the flood-affected areas of Pakistan. The organization is also helping with water distribution to health structures, as well as hygiene products, cooking sets and other supplies. They are planning to send additional personnel and mobilizing resources to assist relief efforts. Contributions can be made online and by phone at 1-888-392-0392      

International Committee of the Red Cross continues to distribute relief supplies to over 7,000 flood victims in Balochistan. The ICRC and its partners are finalizing medical contingency plans for flood-affected areas, and for repairing critical water infrastructure. You contribute by making a donation in numerous currencies online.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are performing rapid needs assessments in affected areas and distributing food coupons and other relief items including tents, hygiene kits, tarpaulin sheets and kerosene stoves. They have also set up a medical camp in Sultan to offer immediate medical aid to affected families. You can help now by making an online donation.

Islamic Relief USA is providing food and water for 700 families In Noshara, distributing emergency supplies and working with the United Nations World Food Program to distribute food to 2,000 families in Bakhtiarabad. Islamic Relief has launched a campaign to aid the victims of the floods, which you can support by making an online donation.

Mercy Corps is accepting donations to provide flood victims in the hard-hit Swat Valley with water, food and tools to clean up and rebuild. You can donate online.

Oxfam Great Britain is looking to provide the needed temporary shelter, clean drinking water and toilets to help avert a public health catastrophe. They are accepting online donations in pounds, euros and dollars, and can be reached by telephone internationally at  +44 (0) 1865 47 2602. In England, you can text ‘DONATE’ to 70066 to make a donation of 5 pounds to their Pakistan Floods Appeal.

ShelterBox distributed hundreds of ShelterBoxes to families rescued from the flood in the Punjab and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KPK) regions. Find out how to become part of the ShelterBox Team or help the efforts by making an online donation in the UK and the US.

SOS Children’s Villages supports the children of Pakistan through different programs across the country and offers care of lone children following the disaster, as they did after the Kashmir Earthquake. You can make a direct donation in dollars or pounds and you can sponsor a child in Pakistan here.

UNICEF‘s Pakistan office is providing assistance for water and sanitation, health, and nutrition. They are distributing clean water and water purification tablets to prevent water-borne diseases and will continue to asses the situation to determine if further fundraising appeal is needed. If you are interested in becoming a UNICEF volunteer click here or support flood-relief efforts by making an online donation.

World Food Programme is making food distributions to 35,000 families affected by the flooding in Northwestern Pakistan. WFP Pakistan plans to assist up to 150,000 families over the next few months as access to the affected areas improves. You can help by making an online donation in either euros, dollars, pounds or yens.

World Vision is working to distribute food and clean water to the affected communities in Pakistan. They have created the World Vision’s Flood Relief Fund which you can support it by making an online donation.

Operation Blessing International is sending emergency medical relief teams to Peshawar, Pakistan. Working with their disaster relief partner charity Humedica, OBI will offer medical treatment and distribute food, clean drinking water and emergency building supplies to thousands in need from this flood. Support for OBI’s disaster relief efforts can be made online or by calling 1-800-730-2537  

Save the Children is providing food and water, shelter, sanitation and other immediate needs for the families and communities affected by this disaster. They are accepting donations to their Pakistan Children in Emergency Fund online as well as by phone by calling in the US    1-800-728-3843

Pakistan Floods: World Bank to Lend $900m For Recovery

As Reported by the BBC

The World Bank is to loan $900m (£574m) to Pakistan to help it recover from its worst ever flooding. The devastating floods have affected up to 20 million people and left some 2,000 dead, say officials.

But the UN says international aid has been slow and that it has raised only a third of the $460m (£294m) needed for emergency relief.

Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Britain said it could take five years and $15bn (£9.6bn) for the country to recover. The World Bank funds will come through the reprogramming of planned projects and the reallocation of money, a World Bank spokesman said.

“We are reprioritising to make the funds immediately available,” he told Reuters news agency.

Health officials have warned that disease could spread quickly among the millions of displaced people and that 3.5m children are at risk.

Maurizio Giuliano, of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), warned that Pakistan would face “a second wave of deaths” from water-borne diseases and food shortages unless more aid arrived soon.

He estimated the number of people at risk from such diseases was six million.

Meanwhile, rival political groups in Sindh province have been accusing each other of creating breaches in embankments and dykes to save their own towns and property.

Many of the breaches were reportedly made to divert flood waters away from military garrisons in the area.

Jacobabad city, for example, has been saved, but low-lying areas around it, including Dera Allahyar and some other towns in Balochistan province, have been inundated.

In India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has promised more funds to help areas affected by the recent devastating floods in Ladakh, a remote mountain region in Indian-administered Kashmir.

During a visit to the heavily damaged town of Leh, he said all the destroyed homes would be rebuilt within the next two-and-a-half months with money from a government relief fund.

The flash floods over 10 days ago killed more than 80 people and caused heavy damage to property. Many people are still missing.

‘Marshall Plan’

Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Britain Wajid Shamsul Hasan told the AFP news agency that 2,000 people had now been killed by the floods – previous estimates have put the number of dead at around 1,500. He said it would take at least five years for the country to recover, and put the reconstruction bill at “more than $10 to $15bn”.

He warned that a failure to provide sufficient relief and rebuilding assistance could lead to an increase in extremism and instability in the wider region.

He called for a new Marshall Plan, referring to the extensive US development programme in Europe after World War II.

Not only have the floods affected around one-fifth of the country, they have also caused considerable damage to roads, bridges and communications, says the BBC’s Mike Wooldridge in Islamabad.

Thousands of homes and other buildings including schools and hospitals have been swept away, and crops for domestic food consumption and for export have been lost.

One of the key questions is whether farmers will be able to use their land to plant their winter wheat crop in September, our correspondent adds.

‘Image deficit’

The UN has so far only received about a third of its appeal amount – the US has made the biggest contribution so far, followed by the UK.

Aid agencies have blamed Pakistan’s “image deficit” for the shortfall, as potential donors fear the funds would be diverted into extremism in the country.

A spokeswoman for Care International told AFP the UN had to do more to convince donors that the money was “not going to go to the hands of the Taliban”.

“The victims are the mothers, the farmers, children. But in the past, information linked to Pakistan has always been linked to Taliban and terrorism,” said Melanie Brooks.

Bill Berger, USAID’s principal regional adviser for South Asia, told the BBC it had been difficult to communicate the scale of the disaster to the rest of the world:

“Remember that this flood has built up over time… I just don’t think the world has realised the magnitude of this now, because this story has just been slowly increasing. It doesn’t have the drama of an earthquake that impacts a huge number of people all at once.”

The floods began more than two weeks ago in the mountainous north-west and has swept south across a quarter of the country, including its agricultural heartland.

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