Karachi Relief Trust

Print Media

How can one Help?

By Ardeshir Cowasjee
Sunday, 29 Aug, 2010 | 02:07 AM PST |

THE National Disaster Management Authority and its provincial/local subsidiaries have justifiably come under fire for the woefully inadequate responses to the floods and the ensuing tragedy. 

Formed by an ordinance in the aftermath of the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, no serious input and resources were made available to the Authority — it was and is a toothless tiger. 

As we in Pakistan are unable to deal with what passes for normal lives in any coherent and organised manner (with a negation of law and order and permanent chaos on all fronts), how can we be expected to rise up to deal with overwhelmingly complex and ‘extraordinary’ circumstances. This is essentially a fatalistic nation, submitting humbly to ‘Allah ki marzi’, incapable of realising that people can actually be in control of their own destiny. 

Establishing a disaster management system is akin to taking out an insurance policy against incidents that may never happen — and this nation with its scarce resources and grasping leaderships cannot afford insurance premiums. 

But then, even the mighty US stumbled while tackling the unexpected: the slow and confused reaction to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the consequences. Violence erupted in pockets in New Orleans, sanitation deteriorated in survivor camps, and events exposed a broader social, political and economic system that does not work for the poor. President Bush’s statement that the military is the “institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations” was sad and unsettling for the affected citizens. 

A blog written in 2005 ascribed the failure of the handling of Katrina to the lack of good governance: “Good governance is a catch-all phrase used by scholars of comparative politics. They define it differently, but in its most succinct form, the idea has four parts. 

First, and most importantly, good governance means responding to the needs of your citizenry. That may seem painfully obvious, but the world is full of leaders who don’t get it — or don’t care to. Democracy is just as important — in it is embedded the all-important principle of self-government. Good governance also rests on the rule of law and a healthy respect for judicial independence. The final pillar is transparency — it’s inconceivable that we could govern ourselves well without keeping tabs on what our representatives are cooking up in our name.” 

How aptly this applies to this unsettled country. 

My friend and advisor on matters environmental, Engineer Roland deSouza, spent five days in Sukkur and Shikarpur last week with the Edhi ambulance team, trying to understand what was going on. Herewith an encapsulation of his findings and comments. 

The situation is overpowering. Hundreds of camps, each with some 100-150 families (600-1,500 persons) have been set up by the government in and around small towns and cities in upper Sindh to care for the displaced from the affected districts, including Jacobabad, Kashmore, Shikarpur and so forth. 

The state of camps established in schools, colleges and other concrete buildings is particularly pathetic as the environmental conditions are grossly unsanitary and unhealthy. Garbage strewn around Sukkur generates flies by the millions, sitting on the faces of babies as shown on the TV channels. The absence of adequate washing and sanitary facilities results in the proliferation of human faeces and water pooling within building compounds — a surefire prescription for flies, mosquitoes and water-borne diseases. 

Camps established with tents (of which there is a shortage) in open areas around towns fare slightly better as occupants are able to use the surrounding fields to relieve themselves. The drainage of water away from the camp still needs to be implemented. Moving affectees from buildings to tent-camps should improve matters. 

Most camps are managed by government servants, teachers and the like. In the confusion and chaos, registration/listing of inhabitants is questionable. One NGO, who took over a Shikarpur school camp, counted 160 families where the teachers had listed 240. 

Food is being supplied by the government and NGOs, local and foreign. Area PPP workers go along with the government food-delivery teams in order to gain political capital for the next elections. Rice is served in many places, but is not to the liking of people who are used to roti. 

Health issues have the potential of developing into major hazards: mosquitoes, lack of bed-nets and thus malaria; exacerbation of previous malnutrition in young children; prolific diarrhoea/dysentery deteriorating into a cholera epidemic; skin infections mushrooming through contact. 

The UN agencies (WFP, Unicef, WHO) are organising government authorities and NGOs into ‘clusters’ for relief action (nutrition, shelter, health, water/sanitation, etc) and will provide material resources, such as food, medicines and equipment. The WHO team in Sukkur is looking for well-established health NGOs to set up and man (24/7) diarrhoea treatment centres in affected districts to contain a cholera outbreak.Many persons of goodwill are trying to identify the most effective way to help. Roland suggests making cash donations to credible humanitarian organisations (for instance, Karachi Relief Trust, HANDS, SIUT). Contributions in cash allow aid experts, who are familiar with the problems and methodologies involved, to procure the exact items required near the site of distribution, thus reducing the necessity and costs of transportation/warehousing. 

Relief goods reach faster and the economy of the affected district is stimulated. Additionally, aid can be tailored to the environment, culture, diet and actual needs of the recipients. 

If those who wish to do good seek sincere hands-on involvement, they can volunteer to participate in the management of the camps or medical centres or engineering construction through credible humanitarian organisations such as those mentioned above. 

We have to wake up and remain awake.


Flood relief: Putting your right foot out

By Aamna Haider Isani
Sunday, 29 Aug, 2010 | 10:30 AM PST |

These past few weeks have been devastating for Pakistan. But amidst tales of woe, misery and the break down of law and order, what we must grasp and move forward with is the unprecedented human effort that is needed to mitigate the sufferings of the flood victims. There is so much to complain about but there is also a lot to be appreciative of. After all, the glass is half-full as well as half-empty, depending on how you choose to see it. 

Foreign aid may have taken time to come but the way citizens have poured their hearts and souls into relief efforts must be considered when judging the nation at large. Twelve hundred may have stood numb while two brothers were being brutally murdered in Sialkot but thousands if not millions have come together to help the flood affected. It’s a sign that humanity is not dead. It brings us hope, if nothing else does, that all is most definitely not lost.

One understands the massive outcry against everything outrageous that has hit Pakistan in the past few weeks. As Ali Zafar rightly wrote on his Facebook page, ‘Every time you think what worse can happen to this country, aren’t you surprised?’ Facebook and Twitter have been flooded with expressions of disappointment and dismay at the government’s flood relief effort and then repugnance against the Sialkot incident. No one is unaffected. That said — and this may be saying it too soon — the will to move forward is as important as the will to stop and revolt.

Getting on is important. One believes that to rebuild what has been washed away, it is imperative to hold on to everything that remains intact. That means that economic activity — at all levels — must be sustained, be it in the corporate world, government sectors and yes, even fashion and entertainment. Artistes should not be condemned for acting, musicians for singing and designers for creating new collections any more than the man next door who drives to his 9 to 5 desk job every morning. Life must go on and for many people, the show equates to life and livelihood.

One does look forward to the Bono and Sting concert with Ali Zafar, to be held in Lahore, if reports are to be believed. And more so for the music it’ll make than the funds it’ll raise, let’s not be hypocritical to say otherwise. But entertainment and luxuries are no longer palatable without the philanthropic angle and it will stay this way for quite some time. 

Sensitive to the issue, a very cautious Pakistan Fashion Design Council (PFDC) cancelled its press conference and issued a press release announcing dates for the upcoming PFDC-Sunsilk Fashion Week (to be held in Karachi between October 11 and 14) instead. It quoted from the Economic Survey of Pakistan, claiming that “about 38 per cent of the Pakistani workforce is employed in the textile and fashion industries” and that fashion week, being a trade platform, would further that growth. Furthermore, the council and fashion week sponsors announced that finale showings would be ticketed events this year and proceeds would be donated for the relief and rehabilitation of flood victims. 

Meanwhile, several altruistic individuals came together in Lahore, putting luxury items on sale for flood relief. The Fashion for Flood Relief campaign, organised by Mehrunnisa Khan and Rema Qureshi at the Royal Palm Club, was participated by over 70 fashion designers, furnishers, jewellers etc., from all over the country. Over Rs2.1 million was raised and donated to the Jazba Foundation. The organisers plan to repeat a similar sale before Eid.

Things were just as vigilant in Karachi where the humdrum of activity kept funds rolling into charities. Around 88 artists from all over the world donated their works to Noorjehan Bilgrami’s Koel Gallery, managing to raise Rs3,322,000 in what they called the Silent Auction. Proceeds from this event were donated to three organisations carefully selected by the Gallery Committee, the first tranche going to the Karachi Relief Trust. The remaining 45 pieces should manage to raise a considerable additional sum too.

On a smaller level, fashion boutique Ensemble hosted a qawwali night featuring Farid Ayaz and, according to Shehrnaz Husain, around Rs500,000 were raised that night. Speaking to Images on Sunday she said that the committee aimed at having such events on a regular basis — the need is so high. 

Flood relief drives have been stirring in all sectors. As multinational corporations are matching any personal donations made by employees, members of the fashion and entertainment fraternity are coming together for a cause that has stirred everyone from slumber. There isn’t an individual that hasn’t been helping, be it for the V Need U drive outside Agha’s in Clifton, Karachi, or the Build a Home campaign that has already started rebuilding homes in Shikarpur. Or the countless enterprises that are working their socks off as we speak. The level of destruction is so great that even all these personal efforts put together may not be enough but it’s a beginning and every penny counts.

As many TV hosts are now insisting, one must forget for a minute the failings of the system and concentrate on what one can do individually to not fail the victims. Personal efforts and the power of one will make a difference — it always does — and negativity, pessimism or whining will not.