Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ramadan and Remembering Pakistan: Life in the time of the cholera?

Pakistani flood survivors reach out for relief goods distributed Monday, Aug. 16, 2010 in Khangarh, near Multan, Pakistan. Angry flood survivors blocked a highway to protest slow delivery of aid and heavy rain lashed makeshift housing Monday as a forecast of more flooding increased the urgency of the massive international relief effort. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

Ramadan is a time of charity, both zakat and sadaqa: zakat being an annual specific obligation and a pillar of Islam; and sadaqa being general acts of charity and kindness.

This year as well as ongoing needs there is a particular one, that of Pakistan. Shamefully, the disastrous flooding there has received little attention in the international media and little relief response from the international community. It seems that now that the affected have reached 20 million and there is a serious cholera threat, greater attention is being paid.

To his credit, Pakistani former Ambassador Dr Ahmed Akbar, who has family in the affected region, is appearing on news channels and speaking eloquently and knowledgeably about Pakistan's current needs, and the greater need in the face of a neglectful government. Unicef's Regional Director for South Asia, Daniel Toole, is making direct appeals; and, UN Secretary General Dr Ban Ki-Moon has made a visit and a personal as well as professional plea for aid. The WHO and the IRCC are involved.

An initial case of death from cholera has been confirmed, and many other Pakistanis, and Afghani refugees there show the characteristic symptom of watery diarrhea. Cholera is transmitted by the bacteria in the stools, and hand to mouth transmission. In other words, treatment in specialized stool containing settings, sanitation, and hand washing are extremely important preventives--hard to manage in general third world conditions, washed out villages and sewage systems, homelessness, and no public facilities.

In epidemiological terms cholera is both virulent (causes severe illness) and highly transmissible. It often occurs in epidemic (high number of cases in one country or region) and pandemic (epidemic over more than one country or region) proportions. In Pakistan, ongoing rains, flooding, lack of infrastructure, and very slow and incomplete responses to the disaster both nationally and internationally lead one to believe a cholera epidemic, or pandemic to nearby Afghanistan, is a realistic fear.

AlteregoGenerationZ | August 07, 2010 SMALL CHANGES CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE - With Ramadan coming up, and our Ummah in strife, in need and reaching out to us, we need to stand up, one at a time, and give, donate, help and support. Let us ensure we shift from wanting and planning, to actually contributing and seeing to it that our contribution makes a tangible difference.

The video above includes the Islamic references about charity, visuals of the devastation, interview clips about the relief aid, or lack thereof, and excellent suggestions for what and how to donate through reliable NGOs.

Ramadan Mubarak
American-Pakistani blogger, Jehanzeb, of Broken Mystic and Muslim Reverie, devoted his Ramadan greetings post to the topic of the need for aid to Pakistan and the reasons behind the international neglect. The post is well worth reading.

Generally, some issues are: Pakistan's poor image regarding corruption, being a Muslim country, and fear on the part of donors that this will make them targets of their own governments' surveillance of donations to Islamic charities, or Muslim countries. Donating through the IRCC, UN, or UNICEF might then be the most neutral way to do so.

Video by Raed AlSaeed

Pakistan Needs our Help
Qusay, of Qusay Today, also recently did a post appealing for help for Pakistan, and included the video above. A regular commentator remarked on the directive by King Abdullah to Prince Naif to create a Saudi national campaign for Pakistani relief.

Devastation of this nature is an equal opportunity killer, and a chance for all to respond with the aid they are able to provide. I sincerely hope that individuals, community groups, and especially major organizations, and countries--particularly Pakistan's allies in the "global war on terror" and those of the ummah--will step up.

Pakistani flood survivors return to their village devastated by heavy floods in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2010. A forecast of more flooding increased the urgency of the massive international relief effort. (AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mahsud)

Pakistani flood victims jostle to get relief food distributed by volunteers in Shekarpur, Pakistan on Monday, Aug. 16, 2010. Angry flood survivors in Pakistan blocked a highway to protest slow delivery of aid and heavy rain lashed makeshift housing Monday as a forecast of more flooding increased the urgency of the massive international relief effort. (AP Photo/Shakil Adil)

Pakistani flood survivors collect food relief dropped from a truck, in Muzaffargarh, near Multan, Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2010. Angry flood survivors blocked a highway to protest slow delivery of aid and heavy rain lashed makeshift housing Monday as a forecast of more flooding increased the urgency of the massive international relief effort. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

A displaced Pakistani child plays at a camp for flood-affected people in Razzakabad on the outskirts of Karachi, Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2010. Pakistan's worst floods in recorded history began more than two weeks ago in the mountainous northwest and have spread throughout the country. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

Pakistani flood survivors jostle for a sack of flour distributed by volunteers, in Muzaffargarh, near Multan, Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2010. Angry flood survivors blocked a highway to protest slow delivery of aid and heavy rain lashed makeshift housing Monday as a forecast of more flooding increased the urgency of the massive international relief effort. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

Your comments, thoughts, impressions, experiences?

Related Posts:
Ramadan and Remembering Pakistan: Parts II, III, and IV: The Floods and Sociobiology; The Response; Katrina 5 Years On
Ramadan and Remembering Pakistan: Part V Not sure what to do with your zakat?


Usman said...

Thank you for devoting some of your time for addressing this issue.
It is hard to complain against international community when the president Zardari known as Mr. Ten percent is on his private trip to Europe while Pakistan was flooding in this menace.
In 2005 Earthquake there was significant help form Pakistanis and from all over the world but only a fraction of those charities made it to the victims. They are not just the victims of flood..., but are the victims of a system which is corrupt form top to bottom.
Even the fellow Pakistanis are somewhat hesitant in donating and wondering if their efforts will have any effect this time?

Haitham هيثم Al-Sheeshany الشيشاني said...

Thanks for this post.
People there r suffering indeed :(

The 2nd clip broke my heart.

Praying for them.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. It really is heartbreaking to see the devastation - as if Pakistan didn't have enough problems already.

I think one of the reasons why the international community have been slow to donate is that not everyone fully realised how bad it was. With an earthquake like the Haitian one, the damage was immediate, but with the floods, they've gotten progressively worse affecting more and more people.

There was one statistic bandied around in the British press last week that our government had pledged £30 million, which made up a third of the total amount pledged by governments worldwide. This was in addition to £15 million in donations from the British public. The quick reaction here was probably because there's a large Pakistani population and British charities such as Islamic Relief (very high profile) already had a presence in the region.

Other countries have started to give more, after realising how bad it id and by Ban Ki Moon's comments over the weekend.

Anonymous said...

Islamic nations snub UN plea to help flood victims

ISLAMIC nations are shunning a United Nations appeal for the worsening Pakistan floods, amid tensions with President Zardari.

Western countries have rallied to Pakistan's aid, with the US and Britain the leading donors in the drive to raise $US460 million in the first 90 days. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, is expected to attend a special meeting of the UN General Assembly on Thursday to show solidarity with Pakistan, diplomats said.
Not a single Islamic nation appeared yesterday on the UN's latest list of donors, despite efforts to reach out to them...

...Mr Reader noted that Islamic nations such as Saudi Arabia had traditionally given aid directly to Pakistan rather than through the UN. "The money we track is ... given to the multilateral process and given through UN appeals," he said. "It does not track the money that is given bilaterally."
Analysts blamed Riyadh's strained relations with President Zardari for the apparent indifference of the oil-rich Saudi Government. "King Abdullah has never liked Mr Zardari, for various reasons," said a former Pakistani diplomat.
"One is Mr Zardari's closeness to the Americans. His being a Shia may also be a factor."


Of course, some Muslims are not the right kind of Muslims.

Gees, aren’t the Saudis “friends” of the Americans?

Chiara said...

Usman--thank you for your comment, and sharing your insights. I have mentioned only the national challenges broadly, but indeed President Asif Zardari's attitude has been discouraging to say the least. Every Pakistani I know thinks he has moved up from his previous 10%, and has little faith in his government.

I do hope that international oversight, and learning lessons from the past will bring the necessary aid to the innocent.

Thanks for commenting!

Haitham--thank you for your comment, full of compassion. Indeed prayers are an important part of this effort along with the more prosaic donkey caravans and helicopter drops. It seems as if more is being done but still at about 25% of what was originally asked for by the UN.

I found that the report on the cholera death really brought home for me how bad the situation is. I hope others start paying attention too.

Thanks again.

Chiara said...

Shafiq--thank you for your comment, and including the information about the British response, which indeed has been the most robust and fastest to date. There are Canadian based initiatives as well through the national Unicef, Islamic Relief, Muslim Aid, etc organizations which are linked in Canadian news articles.

I think one of the most disturbing aspects is that because the aid is insufficient and the infrastructure is so poor it is being literally "thrown at people as if they were dogs" and causing fighting amongst them.

It is very true that the floods just kept coming and so the problem developed more slowly. As the rising waters are heading towards major power centres, including Benazir Bhutto's resting place there is also a greater sense of urgency.

Thanks again for your comment. :)

Chiara said...

Anonymous--thank you for your comment and sharing the further information about the lack of response and potential reasons for why. It is very true that those Muslim countries and organizations donating through non-UN channels wouldn't be included in the UN reporting of donors.

As for the Saudi response it is now at $27 million and rising, as is reported in the international press and in the Saudi Gazette, here.

I do think President Zardari because of his well-earned reputation for corruption (he was found guilty by the International Criminal Court so it wasn't just all Pakistani politicking) is a detriment to his country in this instance.

Imran Khan has started his own fund raising campaign. Perhaps other prominent Pakistanis will follow suit.

Bill Clinton's skills, or those of similarly talented and connected people with credibility could be used to urge contributions to reputable agencies as they did for the tsunami.

Thank you again for your comment, and I hope you will read, enjoy, and comment on older and newer posts as well.

Wafa' said...

It's disgrace how the world ignoring the disaster there so easily. all we hear are promises and money collected here and there but nothing is done.
The pictures are so depressing and sad that there are people in our world living like this and not let's forget that there are some who knows no other way of living but this one :(

Thanks Chiara for the eye opening post.

Chiara said...

Wafa'--thank you for your comment and kind words. I didn't even put in the most disturbing pictures I found. I am thinking of doing an update post. Sadly there is a better but still not a good response. Thanks again for your comment.

Haitham هيثم Al-Sheeshany الشيشاني said...

Thanks 4 the post.
I wih we had more than words and prayers.

God help them and all in need.


Majed said...

The post with the photos and links included in it, is a distress flare to those who still have a bit of humanity to flock to help their human brothers who are in need and i think pakistanies are really in bad situation i wonder where is China Pakistan `s most dependable ally and patron on this.
to tell the Truth the Saudi people never fall behind to gather good lot of money whenever the government calls upon them to do so, unfortunately this tragedy came under the presidency of Zardari who is hated and mistrusted by all, even though they the saudies gathered some 700 million Saudi Riyals so far.
I think aid goods and monetary donations or part of it should be given to some reliable organisations like Edhi Organisation whose founder is virtually begging people all over pakistan to help their brothers, and whose reputation is impeccable i think they should make the president of pakistan by force. it is better than a democratic elections that brings people like Zardari.


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