The first deaths due to hunger have been reported in Pakistan. People are living in squalor in camps that are being moved as the waters are encroaching further inland. So how will you help?
The needs are as follows in order of priority: saving lives, water, food, shelter, clothing.
Listed below are some practical do and don’ts based on interviews and reports coming in from people I know on the ground:
- DO send money through reputable sources. Avoid the “accounting challenged” institutions. Some trustworthy organizations (and it is not limited to these):
- Do NOT send food. People are asking for basic dry ingredients like rice, flour and lentils. They do not want meat as it is perishable. They do NOT want canned food which they have never eaten before (and they do not have can openers either!). Canned food is thrown, and especially if it is coming from outside Pakistan. People do NOT trust processed food coming from outside Pakistan.
- DO send money so NGOs on the ground can provide food
- Do send money so NGOs on the ground can provide cooking utensils for the survivors
- If you are local then sponsor food being cooked on-site at the camps
- Do NOT send bottled water. People have never used bottled water before and do not trust it. Truckloads of bottled water have been sent back because the victims do not want it.
- DO send money so relief workers on the ground can provide water filtration tablets and filtration systems for the people
- Do NOT send clothes from outside Pakistan. People there ONLY wear shalwar kameez. There is only a teeny tiny fraction of men who would consider wearing trousers. Everything else is useless and gets thrown.
- DO send money so clothes can be bought for the people who have nothing left except the clothes on their backs. Winter will be here in a few short months and the need will become urgent
- Do NOT send medicine unless you are coordinating with some organization on the ground that knows exactly what is the need for that particular location.
- DO send money so local doctors, hospitals and clinics can provide medical assistance for the growing number of sick.
- Do NOT send tents. The NGOs on the ground are providing tents locally. Within weeks the Internally Displaced People (IDP) will be encouraged to go back to the homes and rebuild their lives. Then they will need bricks, cement and other building materials. That is most cost effective if it is procured locally. Mud houses will be reconstructed and tarps will be used to make them more water resistant.
- DO send money so rebuilding efforts can take place in a few weeks time after the waters recede.
- DO send money to NGOs who are working on the ground. The reality is that many of them are partnering with each other, and the government to do local need assessments and relief delivery. This is preventing the duplication of resources and allowing for better coverage. The SCALE however is so big that any amount and every amount is needed.
- DO organize fundraising. Work with an organization on the ground and figure out the cost to sponsor a family or a village for the next 6 months. The victims will need help well into next year so give consistently. Make it a school project or a family project or a community project where you pledge an amount and work towards it. Then follow the progress of those people whom you helped in real terms. Each of us can be instrumental in saving lives without actually being there physically.
- And last but not least, pray for them. The second wave of flooding is starting. Every province in Pakistan has been impacted, from the north to the south. The rains will continue for several more weeks so many more villages, towns and cities will be flooded. Most dams are reaching their max. Canals and barrages are at capacity and rich feudal land owners do not want to divert water in ways that would save lives but destroy their crops. The people on the ground are being left to fend for themselves. NGOs, the army (and some small government efforts) are working hard to help the common man but the scale is overwhelming.
“This has been a heart-wrenching day for me. I will never forget the destruction and suffering I have witnessed today. In the past, I have witnessed many natural disasters around the world, but nothing like this.”
Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General