Bhong Flood Relief Fund Allows Monitoring of Donated Funds
Some areas in Pakistan are getting more help than others. In The New York Times, Daniyal Mueenuddin wrote, “I have seen or heard of no American assistance to flood victims in my immediate area of south Punjab, on the border with Sindh. The affected area is vast, and perhaps it is simply that American and Western resources are spread thin. However, my impression is that most resources are being directed to the mountainous areas in the north.”
On August 14, Fahad Hussain posted a note on Facebook asking people to come to the aid of the people of Bhong, in south Punjab. He wrote, “On August 8, 2010, the disaster-bound waters unleashed their fury on Bhong and almost a dozen other surrounding villages. The floods deluged up to 9,000 houses and 40,000 acres of agricultural land. . . Governmental assistance has been steadily forthcoming, with the mobilisation of army helicopters and personnel for the rescue of stranded villagers in remote areas . . . However, owing to the scope and scale of this disaster, government resources have been stretched thin, and many hapless citizens continue to starve.”
The reality is that resources are spread thin everywhere in the country. Shelter, food and medicine for about 20 million people require tens of millions of dollars now, and will require tens of millions tomorrow and more still a month from now. Then reconstruction and rehabilitation will start. And there will be the consequences of a rotten food supply. Food shortages, food inflation, reduced agricultural exports. It’s likely the poor of Pakistan will not receive all the international help they require and direct government funding will fall short too.
As such, Mr Hussain (like thousands of other concerned citizens) is appealing to the public. Below is his full note describing the situation in Bhong. Over the days to come, we hope to post more of his updates on the situation in Bhong.
– Online Editor
I wrote this on August 14. Pakistan was commemorating the most sombre Independence Day in its history. At the time, more than 10 % of the nation’s population had been left homeless by the most devastating floods in the region for eight decades. The number of affected people has risen since then.
For an economy that has already been severely paralyzed by a series of unforgiving terrorist attacks and continuous internal instability, these calamitous floods have engulfed the country into an envelope of fear, panic and despondency. The Pakistani government, already contending with a huge budget deficit, has been caught severely off-guard as it struggles to deal with a crisis of great magnitude. Even international support hitherto has been disproportionate with respect to the scale of the disaster, and has not come nearly as close to matching the financial requirements that this unspeakable disaster needs.
These floods are more complicated than any other natural disaster Pakistan has ever faced, for a wide spectrum of reasons. The 2005 earthquake in northern Pakistan, for instance, was relatively concentrated in terms of affected area, and relief and rehabilitation plans were relatively simple, transparent and easily executable. In contrast, affected areas from these floods are scattered all over Pakistan, inundating almost a quarter of the country’s territory. This makes relief and rehabilitation efforts much more complicated, both financially and otherwise. Furthermore, unlike other natural disasters of similar magnitude, such as the 2010 Haiti Earthquake and the 2004 Tsunami, the death toll is relatively low and controlled. However, the number of people who have been displaced (approximately 20 million) is unprecedented when compared to other disasters. This posits a very different dimension of problems, as these forlorn people require daily sustenance, clothing and shelter from endless monsoon rains and boiling summer temperatures. Furthermore, there are growing reports of the spread of diseases such as cholera, owing to the contamination of the flood waters.
Perhaps one of the most influential underlying reasons for the lacklustre public response towards the flood relief effort is the scattered nature of the affected regions. This has created a certain level of confusion about where and how public funds should be targeted. This problem is further exacerbated by alarming levels of public distrust about whether their funds will reach their designated areas, and how these funds will be utilised.
At the International School, with the instauration of the”Bhong Flood Relief Fund,” we have recognised and mirrored this general public sentiment. Bhong is a small town in Rahim Yar Khan, southern Punjab. It is the centre of gravity in the region, owing to its status as a major tourist attraction. It is home to the famous Bhong Mosque, which has been a religious and education centre for citizens in the region for more than 60 years. The Al-Ghazi Trust Charitable Hospital is also situated in Bhong, and has served as a source of relief and comfort for the local populace for years.
On August 8, 2010, the disaster-bound waters unleashed their fury on Bhong and almost a dozen other surrounding villages. The floods deluged up to 9,000 houses and 40,000 acres of agricultural land. This resulted in unimaginable financial losses for people who were already struggling to make ends meet. More than 50,000 people have been left homeless and are scrounging for assistance. Governmental assistance has been steadily forthcoming, with the mobilisation of army helicopters and personnel for the rescue of stranded villagers in remote areas which have been completely submerged, and for the provision of food and other relief goods. However, owing to the scope and scale of this disaster, government resources have been stretched thin, and many hapless citizens continue to starve, with demand for food and other relief goods far outstripping the current level of supplies. Mere words cannot possibly properly explain the degree of misery and hardship that these people are suffering.
Having painted this lamentable and lachrymose picture, we can now present to you a smooth, transparent and easily observable channel through which to funnel your donations. The “Bhong Flood Relief Fund” enables you to monitor exactly how and where your funds or goods are being utilised. Furthermore, once necessary clearances are gained from the government, we also offer you the option to visit the area to personally witness the product of your efforts.
In the face of such unimaginable catastrophe, the most effective tool that we have at our disposal in the fight against this calamity is our continued ability to stand coalescent even in the company of the worst natural disaster in this country’s history. All of us have a patriotic and humanitarian obligation to do whatever we can to alleviate the suffering of those 20 million people who remain clueless about when their nightmares will end. We must stand “shoulder to shoulder” to overcome the existential threat that these floods pose to the stability and welfare of Pakistan. The waters may have submerged our lands, homes and crops, but we will not allow them to submerge our unity, hope and courage. We appeal to all of you to come forward and do whatever you can to help those who desperately need it. Help us make a difference.
This article was originally a note and personal appeal posted on Facebook and has been re-published with the author’s permission.