CATASTROPHIC YEAR FOR THE SINDH

SHAMIM RIZVI
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Oct 3 - 9, 20
11

The year 2011 has been a catastrophic year for the people of Sindh province. First its capital and business hub of the country Karachi suffered at the hands of most furious gangs of killers and Bhatta mafia enjoying the support and patronage of different political parties who ransacked the city through reckless target killing and abductions for ransom.

It was still not over that when the entire province was hit by a natural calamity of unprecedented heavy rains which inundated vast areas and caused heavy losses to human lives, crops, livestock and residential areas rendering hundred of thousands families homeless.

A disturbingly bleak picture has been portrayed by the initial surveys conducted by UN in large pockets of Sindh where most people have completely lost their livelihood.

The rapid assessment is aimed at to judge the damage caused by the floods on an urgent basis, while long term assessments are being carried out by the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) which would devise a long term rehabilitation program.

According to a rapid assessment report, the floodwaters have wiped out about 73 percent of standing crops, 36 percent of livestock, and 67 percent of food stocks in the 13 worst affected districts of the province that will have an impact on the lives of flood victims in the region for years to come. Little is known about the devastation in areas that are still cut off from communication because of continued inundation.

UN affiliated bodies, including the World Food Program and the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, have compiled a "rapid" report based on the field surveys. For unknown reason, however, most of the information in this report has not been made public. According to the report made public, Badin, Tando Muhammad Khan and Tando Allahyar are amongst the worst affected districts. Badin, for instance, has lost 96 percent of its crop. As the assessment itself is a first step, it is highly likely that figures relating to damage mentioned in the report may change.

Chairman National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Zafar Iqbal Qadir, while talking to the media in Islamabad last week, said that over eight million people have been affected in all the 23 districts of the Sindh province by the floods mainly caused by heavy rains which continued for weeks.

He said that flood led to 352 deaths and injuries to 651 people. The total area submerged in water was about 6.5 million acres of which 1.9 million acres had standing crop. The flood destroyed or damaged 1.3 million houses, he added.

About relief measures, he said, that 2,792 relief camps have been established where about 565 thousand people have been accommodated. Badin is the worst affected district followed by Khairpur, Sanghar, and Benazirabad, he said, adding that over a dozen medical centers have been set up in the affected areas besides many mobile clinics have been set up.

Replying to a probing question by a newsperson, the NDMA chief had to admit that these facilities were not enough for which paucity of funds was the main reason.

To another question, he said that about 6500 livestock have been washed away by floodwaters.

World's response to the appeal for help by the Prime Minister of Pakistan has been very poor. Donations from all over the world to the Prime Minister Relief Fund till last week was just equal to Rs100 million that could not be described even as peanuts compared to monumental flood tragedy faced by the people of Sindh.

According to a report, the total collection of donation in the PMs account for the flood fund by all the Pakistani banks till September 20 stood at Rs98 million. Such is the pathetic response from the homeland that the concerned officials in the ministry are even shy to disclose the figure. Nothing concrete has so far come from the international donors despite the fact that the UN has launched an appeal to raise $356 million for the rehabilitation work in flood-affected areas.

Similarly, an appeal for urgent donor support for Sindh flood victims was issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization. International image of the present PPP led government is described as a main reason for the present disappointing scenario never faced by the country before.

This was in this background that PML-N president Nawaz Sharif, after visiting the flood affected areas of Sindh twice during the last two weeks, advised the Prime Minister to immediately donate Rs10 billion from his discretionary fund to rehabilitate those displaced by the worst ever flooding of Sindh. This task must be started immediately and we cannot wait for the help from the international donors. He pointed out that the Prime Minister had Rs29 billion in his discretionary fund and nothing could be more rightful use of this money then to rebuild the flood-hit areas and rehabilitate the people rendered disoriented. One cannot possibly disagree with the PML-N chief on his suggestion.