Joining forces against the floods

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have joined forces to “set up an independent commission, comprising impartial, non-controversial and principled individuals to raise funds for rehabilitation of flood victims and to monitor the damage assessment process for judicious distribution of resources to the provinces”. This is indeed a welcome development given the situation on the ground. Pakistan has been hit by the worst-ever floods in living memory with more than 14 million people affected according to UN estimates while Prime Minister Gilani said that the floods have “affected some 20 million people, destroyed standing crops and food storages worth billions of dollars, causing a colossal loss to the national economy”. Mr Gilani might be right and the toll could actually be around 20 million given the fact that a lot of villages have been wiped off the face of the earth and we may never know how many people have lost their lives until the floods subside and a thorough survey is then conducted. The situation looks grim and one cannot help feeling helpless under the circumstances.

The response of the government, army, local people and international community has not been as good as it could have been but slowly and surely it has dawned on everyone how grave these floods are. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is in Pakistan to appeal for more aid from the world. No province has been left unaffected; after Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Punjab, there have been fresh floods in Balochistan. What the world community now needs to do is rise to the occasion and help Pakistan in this critical time. There has been a swirling storm of suspicion about the transparency of aid given for the flood victims, which may be one of the reasons the international community as well as the domestic audience has not opened their purse strings till now. Thus, PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif’s idea to set up an independent and credible body to raise funds for the flood affectees is commendable. Prime Minister Gilani has shown wisdom by accepting Mr Sharif’s proposal. A credible commission would ensure that the aid reaches the flood victims and there is no corruption while distributing the aid money and relief goods. The huge damage to the infrastructure, crops and livestock cannot even be imagined. Food security is an issue that would have to be looked at seriously given the fact that most of the crops have been destroyed. The number of displaced people runs into the millions. To relocate them and later on send them back to their native places will take months, but till then they have to be taken care of with as much resilience as possible. Malnutrition and water-borne diseases would lead to more deaths in the coming months, thus we must be prepared to cope with both issues on a war-footing.

Having said that, deciding to set up a credible body will not end all our problems. Much thought has to go into how the commission will function and deal with the issues at hand. The commission must maintain its credibility because unless that is done, citizens or the international community would not be willing to pitch in. These floods may have been unprecedented but we must not let the huge relief and rescue operations discourage us. Millions of people are looking for our help and we must not let them down.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

Comments

sunilmalhotra said…
Pakistan Floods and Leh relief. a simple idea and an appeal to contribute through sms http://bit.ly/Leh_Pak

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