Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pakistan Flooding

Typically I don't spend a Friday night headed to a cultural awareness event with a group of students I don't know. But last night after sending my kids off to the homecoming football game I decided to forego football plans and head to Grand Valley State University to attend a flood relief fundraiser for the people of Pakistan.
Prior to this year Pakistan has not even been in my vocabulary, but with my husband living there I find that news stories are popping out at me and I have this intense longing to find a way to be connected with what he is experiencing. One story that has greatly affected me is the flooding that has overwhelmed the country. For several weeks every time I turned on the news, another story about the flooding was posted. But not once have I seen an opportunity to donate money or items to help with the relief efforts. This has bothered me. For a nation that seems to open her hands with helping other nations in desperate need, there has been nothing. Many people don't seem to know about the floods and most don't understand the widespread suffering that has occurred.
The flooding began in July following heavy monsoon rains in the Northern areas of the country. Unlike other natural disasters, a flood knows no boundaries. Rain falls, rivers flood, and water flows. 20% of the country was underwater. Homes have been lost, farm land lost and hope has been lost. Over 2,000 people died in the flooding and 20 million people are displaced. These numbers are more than I can comprehend. I have no way to understand the depth of impact this event has had on this country. Sadly, the majority of the people who are affected are the poor of the country. What little they had has been taken away from them. The United Nations has rated the floods as "the greatest humanitarian crisis in recent history. More people have been affected in Pakistan than the 2004 South-East Asia tsunami and the recent earthquakes in Kashmir and Haiti COMBINED." Yet I hear nothing about helping these people.
I ask myself "why?" People are suffering and we do nothing? Is it too far away? Are we overwhelmed by all the disasters that have happened in recent years? Are we becoming immune to human suffering? Are we fearful of helping a country such as Pakistan where our only impression is that it is a country of terrorists? Do we not realize that it is the civilian who suffers? Are we just not even aware that a crisis is happening?
I am glad to know that our government has stepped up to provide assistance. U.S. military helicopters rescued and evacuated over 2,000 people and transported 89,000 pounds of relief supplies. 1,100 rolls of plastic sheeting and 17,000 blankets were distributed in heavily-flooded areas. The plastic sheeting will benefit approximately 66,000 people. More than 426,000 halal meals have been provided for Pakistani military and citizens. 6 water filtration units were provided, each providing 10,000 people with clean drinking water. 12 prefabricated bridges were made available. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does show that America has been involved in relief efforts.
The stars have not overlooked the floods. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Goodwill Ambassador, Angelina Jolie, traveled to Pakistan in early Sept. to draw awareness to the devastation. She stated that this is an "economic and social crisis".
After doing a bit of digging I found that most organizations who typically respond to disasters have responded. It is not stated on their home page, in fact trying to get around a few of the websites to find a place to donate took a bit of time, but it was there, hidden in the shadows.
So that is how I found myself at an event sponsored by the Desi Student Union and African Student Council on Fri. night. The food was good, I met a few people and enjoyed the music and overall cultural experience. I learned a lot about a group called "The Citizens Foundation" who build schools in Pakistan and are providing food for families affected by the flood. $30 feeds a family of six for a month. Contact your favorite charity and see if they are involved in relief efforts. Do not become immune to the suffering of this world. Whether it is the flooding in Pakistan, the earth quake in Haiti, your local food pantry or your next door neighbor, be aware and willing to help.

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