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Shangla Crossing Swept away.

Your children, right before your eyes.  Every bridge in the district (more than 20 of them), even those made of reinforced concrete.  The six-story Dubai Hotel.  Acres of farmland - and all the crops planted thereon.


Of family.  Of home.  Of food, clean water, resources.  Of dignity.

Come with me.  I want to show you something.

I want to show you how our brothers and sisters in Pakistan are now living . . . and dying.

These are our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our children and elders.  But for the grace of Spirit, God, Allah, some other deity, or nothing but fate goes each of us.  And someday, we just may be the refugees who need the world's help to survive the ravages of climate change.

UPDATE 2:  Another beautiful and generous friend, shanikka, has offered to match another $50 in donations!  Please note your donations in this thread, here.

UPDATE:  My beautiful, generous friend noweasels will match ten five-dollar contributions today! Report your donation below her comment, here, to make it go twice as far.

There are times when it's impossible to find words to convey pain and suffering.  This is one of those times.  I can only hope that the words that are granted me today will do some small measure of justice to the task of showing you the situation our relations face today - and that it will move those who can afford to do so to give.  Even five dollars - the price of a case of soda, a six-pack of cheap beer, a pack of smokes, a Venti Starbucks latte, half a freaking movie ticket, for crying out loud - will save a life. Really.  Five bucks.

Now, come with me.  I want to show you something.

In Sir Darriyya, Charsadda District, sit a husband and wife, Deedar and Darsheda Gul.  Six weeks ago, "a huge wave" of water descended on the town.

Then, Deedar Gul had described to us how he had watched helplessly as his two teenage daughters had been swept away. Three days later, several kilometres away, their bodies were recovered.

Try to fathom that for a moment.  Watching your daughters swept away to sure and certain death, before your very eyes, knowing that you have no chance to save them.

BBC reporter Aleem Maqbool visited the Guls again a few days ago.  Darsheda's pain is searing:

"I might look like I'm walking and breathing," she told us. "But I am dead too. I have no idea what I am doing any more."

"Yes, my husband can try to rebuild parts of our house, but life has no taste since our girls were taken away."

Niyyaz Muhammed managed to save his children - and a tent, a few blankets, and some copies of the Qu'ran.  He has nothing else.

"You know, in the six weeks since you came here, we have had no help from any agencies," he says.

"We see them driving past this area without helping us. I've stood in the road to stop them and they have told me they would come back, but they never do."

Six weeks.  Without aid in the form of food, clean water, medicine, or anything else.

Further north, in the Swat Valley, the floodwaters have cut off hundreds of thousands from aid.

We met Usman Mumtaz, an engineer working on a bridge funded by the British government.

He told us they were working as fast as they could, but that it would not be until the end of the year that a bridge was completed that would allow crucial supplies to get to the isolated communities by truck.

Aid workers told us they had grave fears about the coming months, when the weather closes in and snowfall is expected.
Cable car powered by a car engine A cable car powered by a car engine has provided a temporary river crossing

"Helicopter flights will have to stop and these home-made chair-lifts that cross the valley won't be safe," said Ikramullah Khan from the UN.

"We simply don't know how we'll be able to help all those people on the other side of the river who have been cut off."

In Mianwali, Punjab Province, Hakim Khan's livelihood - more than 100 acres of farmland - is gone.  Worse, it should have been preventable:

Mr Khan was angered that there was no warning before the floods inundated the area. After all, it was not fresh rains here that caused most of the problems, it was the huge volume of water that had fallen in the north of the country surging south.

"Nobody in leadership in this country has the ability to plan properly or to be decisive. Forget the fact no flood prevention projects were here, they couldn't even tell us water was heading our way when it took days for it to reach here from the north," he says.

Now, come with me to Muzaffargarh, in southern Punjab Province.  Let's see what happens when a government official and Mr. Maqbool visit an aid distribution center:

Several sacks containing rice, sugar, oil and other basics certainly were handed out in an orderly manner, but in a matter of seconds, the mood changed.

Some flood victims got turned away, others started to worry that the food would run out before their turn had come. Panic set in, and the distribution descended into chaos.

The crowd surged towards the truck, fighting each other to get close. From all sides, men started clambering up the sides of the vehicle and jumping on to the sacks of aid and trying to pass them down.

More and more followed suit. Our cameraman, Bhasker, had been filming from the truck, but was soon surrounded by frantic people trying to lay their hands on whatever goods they could.

As the situation got all the more dangerous, the decision was taken to drive the truck, complete with dozens of flood victims - and our cameraman - away from the rest of the crowd so no more people could get in.

Eventually, the truck stopped, and the starving people trapped inside wre able to get out of the back.

Save one.

Looking wide-eyed and frightened was a thin, old woman. She rushed from one side of the truck to the other, looking over the sides but too scared to climb down.

Despairing, she crouched inside the vehicle until some people clambered back into the truck to help her.

Barefoot, she walked past us back down the road we had driven along at such speed. She was gripping a bag of sugar and a bottle of cooking oil, and sobbing.

This was the image that broke me.  This woman - someone's mother, aunt, grandmother, this elder - reduced to such fear, such humiliation, such a loss of dignity and personhood.  at this stage of her life, she should be comfortable, cared for, respected - not trapped in the back of a speeding truck, fearing for her life, sobbing because her heart and life are broken.

Our tour is not over.  Come.  There is more to see.

Our next stop is Paka Ghalwa, south of Muzaffargarh.

It is Friday, and Mr. Maqbool is visiting a flood-damaged mosque where the residents of this isolated village continue to gather to offer prayers.

The worshippers told us the area had been totally cut off from the outside world for over a month.
. . .

"Nobody has come here until now," [Muhammed Nasrullah] told me as he led me away from the road, and through the alleyways of the village.

"No politicians have been here and no aid agencies too. We are all alone."

The devastation seemed to get worse and worse the further we went.

. . .

Mr Nasrullah became emotional as we reached the worst affected area.

"How are we supposed to survive without food?" he asked. "We hear rumours that there will be an aid distribution in a neighbouring village so we all rush there, then they beat us and tell us to go to find help somewhere else. We have no dignity."

"We have no dignity."

Four of the most terrible words in existence.

This catastrophe has denied the very humanity of millions.  Mr. Nasrullah sought help from a nearby village.  He was beaten for his trouble.

In the aftermath of the flooding, Allah Dittah's eight-year-old daughter, Misbah, developed "a severe infection."  He was at last able to get her out and to the nearest functioning hospital.  Days later, he returned home to find that all seven of his other children had fallen ill - because the only water is contaminated.

But even today, it is hot and the children are thirsty. There is nothing to give them here except more dirty water.
. . .

The aid effort is totally passing them by.

No.  We're not done yet.  We must still travel south to Sukkur, in Sindh Province, to bear witness there.  Come with me to the "Refugee City":

More than 200 separate camps are estimated to have been established across the district, and schools have been used to give shelter to thousands who were made homeless.
. . .

"We are talking about serving over a million people from this centre alone, and over seven million people in Sindh."

More than one million people in one aid distribution center.  Seven times that many in this one province.

And still the refugees come, hoping for a drink of clean water, a little food, a tent or a tarp, a little hope.

A little dignity.

Five dollars.

Please, dig deep.  Five dollars will help save a life:  It will buy one LifeStraw, ShelterBox's personal water purification system, which will last one person for a year.


Note:  Numerous NGOs are doing important work that may benefit Pakistan indirectly.  However, the goal here is direct support, so this list includes only organizations that are actually on the ground in Pakistan.  Use due diligence in donating to any unknown group.  With those caveats, here are some ways that you can make a difference now:

AmeriCares:  Medicines, medical supplies and equipment, nutritional support, etc.

Direct Relief International:  Mobile health teams and medical supplies, including Pedialyte and antimicrobials.

Human Development Foundation:  Relief/reconstruction, including clean water, supplies, disease prevention, sewage disposal, temporary school facilities.

Islamic Relief USA:  $2 million Pakistan campaign, including on-ground needs assessments; aid distribution; general relief.

Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders):  Medical care; clean water; supply kits, including mosquito netting, tarps, blankets, hygiene supplies, clothes.

Mercy Corps:  Water supply kits, including tanks, purification tablets, filtration units; food supply kits, including rice, oil, staples; tool kits.  

Oxfam International:  Hot food; clean water; boats for search/rescue; installation of tanks and toilets; sanitation kits; hygiene supplies; cash-for-work programs.

Red Crescent:  Emergency services; food packs; bulk rice; tents; other supplies; help with field operations, including shelter, water, sanitation, logistics, other relief.

Relief International:  Distributing "Survival Kits," including dishes/utensils; water purification tablets; cooking stove; jerrycan; floor mat; mosquito netting; hygiene kits; etc.

ShelterBox:  Distributing water carriers; filtration systems; ShelterBoxes, including 10-person partitioned weatherproof tents, insulated ground sheets, thermal blankets, mosquito netting, tool kits, stoves, dishes/utensils, water purification supplies, children's kits, etc.

UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees):  Through partner NGOs, distributing tents, sheeting/tarps, cooking sets, buckets, sleeping mats, blankets, etc.

U.S. State Department Texting Program:  Forwards $10 donations to UNHCR for distribution of supplies in two provinces; text "SWAT" to 50555.


Some of us at Daily Kos use a Google group to help organize for the crisis in Pakistan. Anyone who would like to get involved or get alerts when a new HELP PAKISTAN diary is posted, please join.


Originally posted to Aji on Sun Sep 19, 2010 at 01:53 PM PDT.

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