Pakistan continues to be in great anguish. So much is lost. Months of unprecedented rain and flooding of many parts of Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and south Punjab have resulted in more than thirty-three million people being affected, more than 1,500 human lives lost, more than five hundred of them children, more than 800,000 animals dead, and more than two million acres of agricultural land, crops and orchards, destroyed.
All over the affected areas, relief and rehabilitation work of individuals, social work organizations, international rescue organizations, multinational companies, federal government and governments of Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is in process. But the harrowing reality is that the extent of the damage is colossal, beyond comprehension. All that is visible is flooded lands, partially or fully damaged houses, temporary camps, and people of all ages displaced, pain and despair etched in their tired eyes and bodies.
During his two-day (September 9-11), solidarity visit to Pakistan, UN Secretary-General
António Guterres said, “My heart goes out to everyone who has lost loved ones in this tragedy, and all those who have been affected by the loss of their homes, their businesses and their livelihoods. No country deserves this fate, but particularly not countries like Pakistan that have done almost nothing to contribute to global warming.”
On September 20, UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie arrived in Pakistan as part of the International Rescue Committee team to visit “IRC's response to the devastating floods in Pakistan.”
Displacement, partial and complete destruction of houses, and annihilation of crops and livestock have forced millions of Pakistanis to live in makeshift shelters, where insufficient food arrangements and scant medical facilities are exacerbating their nightmare of an ordeal. Waterborne diseases, malaria and dengue are indiscriminately attacking and killing the young and the old.
In the backdrop of the foreseeable reality of many years of rebuilding and approximately thirty billion dollars for full rehabilitation of the flood affected people of Pakistan, it is the day-to-day work of social welfare organizations that for millions of people is a bulwark against starvation and death due to treatable diseases. Their work is extraordinary, their empathy endless, their concern 24/7.
It is the humanity of social welfare organizations like The Citizens Foundation (TCF) and others that is keeping alive the hope of timely assistance for countless people across the flood-ravaged areas of Pakistan.
On September 14, TCF tweeted: “We share with immense gratitude that we have delivered more than one million meals to 14,432 families in 16 districts with your support to the TCF Flood Relief Appeal. We aim to deliver 5 million meals to families affected by the flood with your help.”
On September 16, TCF tweeted: “The Indus Hospital held a free medical camp for a TCF community in Taluka Moro, District Naushahro Feroze, to help out those affected by the flood. Such initiatives ensure that flood affectees receive the medical care they need.”
On September 18, TCF tweeted: “Through its Aab-e-Rehmat Programme (Clean Drinking Water Initiative), TCF is providing clean drinking water to an estimated 3,000 people per day in flood-affected areas via its mobile unit.”
On September 18, TCF tweeted: “Thousands of families have lost their homes and livelihoods due to the devastating floods. TCF aims to deliver 5 million meals to flood-affected communities. Your support to the TCF Flood Relief Appeal could help us make a difference.”
With their remarkable and substantial work, TCF continues to help as Pakistan begins its journey of healing.
For Gulf News, I asked TCF founder and director Mushtaq Chhapra a few questions:
Mehr Tarar: If you could put it in words, how would you describe the unimaginable devastation floods have unleashed in Sindh in the last few months?
Mushtaq Chhapra: It is the most severe flooding I have ever seen in Pakistan, washing away entire villages, leaving millions exposed to multi-layer risks and in dire need of immediate assistance. Many of the thirty-three million displaced have no access to food and nutrition, safe drinking water or essential emergency medical facilities. Many people have drowned. Diseases are spreading. At its peak, the flooding left more than thirty percent of the country inundated, destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, and blocked road access to many areas. Thousands of schools and public health facilities have been rendered in-operational, blocking access to continued learning for millions.
What was that one moment that truly broke you?
The scale of the disaster is what broke me. As far as the eye could see, entire villages were under water with people sitting on any elevated dry surface they could access, with absolutely no means of sustaining themselves—no food, no water, no shelter.
Deaths of so many children. Why did so many children die?
A third of the nearly 1,500 who died in the floods are said to be children. Children are at an increased risk of death because with water levels being so high in most places, six feet plus in some areas, they just drowned. Those who made it to higher surfaces are at a greater risk of disease related death, dehydration because of high temperatures, and limited access to drinking water.
How is TCF helping the victims of flood?
TCF’s initial response is to provide food and nutrition support and essential medical relief. On this front, TCF targets to provide five million meals to the most vulnerable, with a focus on TCF communities across Sindh and Baluchistan. In the second phase, TCF aims to provide 9,000 families with financial assistance for home reconstruction to support resettlement and to rehabilitate TCF schools that have been damaged in the flooding. TCF also plans to work with credible partners to connect flood victims to credible programmes and solutions that will help support livelihoods.
What are the governments—provincial and federal—doing to alleviate the agony of victims? What more should they be doing?
The Government of Sindh is engaged in a focused activity in providing ration bags, tents, tarpaulins, and mosquito nets. There are also dewatering pumps placed in most of the districts to reduce flood water.
There has to be a proper plan to reduce the effects of climate change. Moreover, in the medium to long term, small and medium dams have to be constructed. What is also needed is a detailed plan of desilting and lining of canals. It is a massive undertaking that requires the help of the international community.
What are the micro and macro steps essential for immediate and long-term assistance and rehabilitation of millions of people affected by floods?
Since more than three million families have been displaced, there are a number of issues. The first and foremost priority is to get them back in their homes. They will not be ready to be relocated anywhere else but their village where they have their roots. So, resettlement is priority number one. Next is their livelihoods. Most of these families live on incomes from agricultural produce and livestock. To help them have a means of earning money may take six months to a year.