Daily Archives: August 30, 2010

PAKISTAN’S OWN KATRINA: Be a Difference-Maker

Adnan Shamsi has sent this post for PTH. This is an excellent summary of the grave crisis facing Pakistan. Shamsi has also listed the organisations that can be supported by donations. At this time, millions of displaced Pakistanis need help and goodwill from across the world. We are happy that PTH’s little contribution to floods coverage is attracting more and more contributors and doers like Mr Shamsi. Raza Rumi

I just finished reading the book “ZEITOUN” by Dave Eggers, with a vivid accounting of life experienced before, during and after the flooding of a major American city in 2005. As the 5th year anniversary of the decimation of New Orleans arrives, brought on by Hurricane Katrina, Pakistan is experiencing its own version of natural calamity. Flooding resulting from monsoon rains has now engulfed one-third of the entire country. To put this into perspective, the flooded areas of Pakistan, still under water today, is an area equivalent to the entire combined land mass of Austria, Belgium and Switzerland. If you can’t quite picture that, picture this: the entire country of Greece completely flooded. In U.S. geographic terms? It’s as if the entire state of Florida were now underwater. If you can’t possibly imagine that, consider that to be equivalent to the flooding of the ENTIRE state of Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Rhode Island, Maryland and the capital Washington DC COMBINED.

It started raining on July 22nd and only eight days later Anne Patterson, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, had issued a disaster declaration. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon upon visiting the country soon after stated, “the world has never seen such a disaster… it’s much beyond anybody’s imagination.” Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s has just called it “The World’s Biggest Emergency” while The Economist writes that “social, economic and political misery will endure for a long time yet…(and) the threat of epidemic disease lurks.” I recall watching the forceful and mighty Indus river from its banks during a trip to the Northern areas of Pakistan in the 1990s, the same river which has run over its banks and spread outwards by scores of miles. I recall riding in a rickety Suzuki minivan along the mountain high ancient Silk Road, today’s KKH (also known as the Karakoram Highway, the world’s highest paved road), which connects Pakistan to China, the same road parts of which are now closed due to damaged infrastructure from the same monsoon rains.

The latest numbers indicate the following:
•    Nearly 20 million people have been displaced (more than the population of the state of New York) including 79 out of 122 districts of Pakistan, and at least half of these people require immediate and sustained humanitarian assistance
•    60,000 square miles are under water
•    1600 deaths
•    14 million people are in need of emergency medical care
•    2.5 million are homeless
•    800,000 people remain cut off from all assistance due to harshness of the terrain and current flood conditions
•    1.2 million homes have been damaged or destroyed
•    1.2 million large animals and 6 million poultry have perished
•    2.6 million acres of cultivated land has been underwater
•    Economically, the agricultural base of the economy has been decimated, with 1 million metric tons of wheat damaged (farmers have lost of 37% of the rice crop, 17% of the cotton crop and 15% of the sugarcane crop) Continue reading

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