August 29, 2022
ISLAMABAD – HARROWING videos on social media of people, homes and commercial establishments being swept away by raging floodwaters have succeeded in bringing the ongoing monsoon-related disaster front and centre on the national stage and finally shaken the authorities out of their torpor.
No less than 116 districts have been affected. Of them, 66 are officially declared ‘calamity hit’. Nearly 1,000 people have died, while millions are without shelter, food and potable water. The government and NGOs have launched relief efforts in the worst-affected areas. In fact, NGOs — including smaller welfare organisations — were comparatively quicker off the mark in sending out provisions, tents, etc some weeks ago to help lessen the effects of the unfolding tragedy.
Appeals to the public for donations are popping up all over social media, in newspapers and on television, and a citizenry known for its altruism must dig deep within these financially straitened times to come to their compatriots’ help. On Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s appeal, global organisations and financial institutions have also announced immediate aid of more than $500m for flood victims. Former prime minister Imran Khan, after an inexplicable initial reluctance, has announced he would lead an international telethon to raise funds for flood victims. Politics must take a backseat for now.
A general consensus is that this year’s disaster surpasses the ‘super floods’ of 2010. The destruction of infrastructure, including key roads and bridges, has compounded the challenge of accessing affected people. Aside from this, there is the question of tailoring the response to effectively meet the victims’ needs — always an important consideration but particularly so at a time when the country’s finances are already stretched thin. For example, many people have no means at present to cook anything; they must be provided cooked meals.
During the 2010 floods as well as the earthquake of 2005, it was seen that people rushed pell-mell to the affected areas out of a desire to help. Pakistanis also donated wholeheartedly in both cash and kind. But because the relief effort — at least in the earlier stages — was not properly coordinated and mapped out, there was chaos and replication of efforts, and whereas in some places donation was in excess of need, certain affected areas fell through the cracks. It is thus imperative for the provincial governments, especially their disaster management authorities, to play an effective role in coordinating diverse relief initiatives so that money and effort are judiciously utilised.