3 Weeks Later, Pakistan Still Struggling to Receive Aid

In an area already devastated by war and rebellion, survivors now must wait for helicopters and ships to send aid after the worst floods in several years. Unusual heavy monsoons battered down Pakistan in late July and affected over 17 million people, roughly one-tenth of the population. Approximately 1,600 people have died, and only one million of the estimated six million people in need have received emergency shelter.

More rain was threatened in the area on Wednesday, and thunderstorms were predicted along with heavy rain into Friday. “These unprecedented floods pose unprecedented logistical challenges,” John Holmes, Coordinator of the United Nations Emergency Relief said in a prepared statement, “this requires an extraordinary effort by the international community.” (New York Times)

800,000 people are estimated to be trapped by flood water. Roads and access to many areas in Pakistan have been blocked, and the only way that aid can be delivered is via helicopter. At least 40 more helicopters are needed, though, if aid groups are going to put a dent in the enormous relief effort. “In northern areas that are cut off, markets are short of vital supplies, and prices are rising sharply,” said Marcus Prior of the World Food Program. “People are in need of food staples to survive. There is currently no other way to reach these flood victims, other than by helicopter.” (New York Times) Flooding has isolated people in Punjab and Sindh provinces, as well as in the Swat Valley.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has been under intense criticism since the flooding occurred. Victims have accused him of being indignant and unresponsive. Gilani promised Wednesday, however, to send more relief soon. The Pakistani government asked the International Monetary Fund during talks in Washington this week to ease restrictions on an $11 billion loan program approved in 2008. Pakistan can ask the Fund to adjust the program to factor in the flood’s impact on the economy or opt out of it and take on emergency IMF funding for countries hit by natural disasters. The United States are sending $50 million from a development package for relief within the next few days.

Anger in Pakistan is rising, and officials in both countries are worried about militants exploiting the disaster and taking charge of the country once again. Residents are equally worried about the Taliban being given ground because of the crisis, thus returning in brutality and feeding on the vulnerable communities.

Several aid charities have been developed in response to the crisis in Pakistan. The discouraging truth, however, is that some of these charities are scams, taking advantage of the situation for their own gain. Consumers should be wary of charities that require a direct appeal through email, phone calls or text messages. If you are approached in person, make sure to check the representative’s identification.

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