Hm, does this mean I’m famous? A twenty-minute interview renders one short paragraph in the overall article… But at least I got to use the word ‘fetid’, which makes me immeasurably happy!


Pakistani prime minister cancels UN trip to deal with floods | World news | The Guardian.

Pakistan‘s prime minister has cancelled a trip to attend the United Nations in New York, where he planned to rebuild frayed relations with the US, saying he needs to co-ordinate emergency aid for flood victims at home.

Yousaf Raza Gilani’s decision was intended to stave off criticism made last year when Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, visited a French castle as epic floods ravaged the country. But it was also testament to the seriousness of this year’s calamity.

Aid agencies are scrambling to southern Sindh province where vast swaths of farmland have been inundated, more than 300,000 people are living in rough shelters and many more are at risk of malaria, dengue fever and food poisoning. Some 230 people have already died, and torrential monsoon rains continue to pound the region, smothering villages in as much as two metres of water.

“The TV images are not as dramatic as last year but the situation is extremely serious,” said aid worker Jeffrey Shannon of Mercy Corps, speaking from Sukkur. “You have fetid, stagnant water, filled with human waste and decomposing animals, which has nowhere to go. In some places it’s turning black and starting to smell, and the malaria season is well under way. That’s not good.”

Some of the worst affected areas were still struggling to recover from last year’s floods, which swamped one-fifth of the country. “The wrath of Allah has hit us twice,” villager Azrah Bibi told the UN news service IRIN.

The floods coincide with another health crisis in Pakistan. A major outbreak of dengue fever has spread across Punjab province, leaving hospitals overflowing with victims, some of whom have died. At least 3,000 cases have been reported in Lahore alone; a senior civil servant is among those who have died.

Whereas last year’s floods were caused by the Indus river bursting its banks, this year’s disaster is the result of unusually heavy monsoons in Sindh – a phenomenon some Pakistanis believe is caused by climate change.

Oxfam says 4.2m acres of land have been hit, but the immediate worry is the spread of disease. The UN children’s fund estimates that at least 2 million children are at risk, although the exact extent of the devastation is difficult to gauge.

Estimates of 5 million people being affected are based on rough population counts; a more accurate survey of the devastation is currently being carried out. There is little doubt, though, about the misery of those trapped by the rising waters.

Around 1.2m homes have been washed away, causing entire villages to move onto the roadside in search of shelter. Despite the profusion of water, supplies of clean water for drinking and cooking are desperately short. Humayun Babas, an aid worker with World Vision, has just returned from Badin district in southern Sindh.

“There is four or five feet of stagnant water yet mothers are having to cook and wash their children in it,” he said. “The mosquitoes are unbearable, even the livestock can’t stand it.”

The international response to the flood was slowed by the Pakistani government, which refused aid agencies permission to deploy until one week ago – a delay that drew sharp criticism from aid workers. But the experience of last year’s floods has also left many aid agencies better positioned to scramble aid into position now.

The British Red Cross said it had pre-positioned £1.7m worth of relief supplies such as tents and hurricane lamps to deal with such an emergency. It has also set up water treatment plants in two districts, describing conditions in temporary camps housing 300,00 people as “overcrowded and unsanitary”.


BBC News – Pakistan rains cause severe flooding


BBC News – Pakistan rains cause severe flooding.

This is where we’re trying to start emergency flood relief interventions. So far, the central government isn’t allowing international NGOs to work there, though local government officials are screaming for help.

We’ve already sent one rapid assessment team down there with another technical team to follow tomorrow afternoon. They’ll be trying to get official government invitation letters and finding appropriate sites to set up water filtration plants and establish mobile health services.

Wish us luck!



BBC News – Pakistan rains cause severe flooding




Flooding once again in Southern Pakistan


BBC News – Pakistan rains cause severe flooding.

Once again, floods ravage parts of southern Pakistan — here in Sindh province. Once again, the response is low and slow with the government not yet permitting or requesting international aid agencies to get involved, though some have slipped down and are offering relief.

We’ll be sending a small team down tomorrow (Saturday) to see the situation and see if the situation is indeed well in hand as the government suggests it is or if more help is needed as local officials and NGOs suggest it is.

The danger, though, is that everyone goes down to carry out assessments, while nothing gets done, and the people being ‘assessed’ grow quickly frustrated and angry. Enough looking and asking questions, please! Get to the part where you actually start helping us!

We tried to rely on information coming from others to help inform whether or not we should get involved, but reliable information just isn’t coming out. That’s why we’re sending our little team down.

Fortunately, our part of northern Sindh — so badly devastated by floods this time last year — hasn’t been affected. We’ve had one rain in the past 2-3 months, over and done with after a couple of hours, leaving big puddles, but not much more than that. So far, it seems unlikely that we’ll face any flooding this year, which is a Very Good Thing. But now we’ll soon see if we should relocate down south.

Meanwhile, nothing — nothing! — is being done to try help Sindhis build up infrastructure and social coping mechanisms to reduce the impact of inevitable future catastrophes. When disaster hits, assistance slowly arrives — not enough and not nearly coordinated enough. But what’s really needed is development and long-term improvements to reduce the number and scope of disasters and to build up community level coping strategies, so that people can better respond themselves while waiting for outside help.

Ah, but Sindh just isn’t all that sexy for the donors or, it seems, for the government. At least not for long-term development. As a political playground, sure, but not for anything that really counts. And that’s quite tragic. So much needs to be done here and so much can be done here. But no one, it seems, is willing to make those investments, seeming to prefer to wait for the next disaster.