LACKLUSTRE FOREIGN RESPONSE TO UN PLAN
TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI
Oct 10 - 16, 2011
Despite the appeals by the United Nations and its partners three weeks ago to the international community for $357 million to help relief and rehabilitation works in the flood-affected areas and for the victims, the government of Pakistan had received not more than $22 million until last week.
Notably, the internationally acclaimed body issued twice the warning notes saying humanitarian agencies were running out of stocks of food, clean water, and essential medicines and urged the foreign donors to help Pakistani government ensure supply of these things to the flood victims for at least six months.
"Urgent relief is critical as families continue to suffer in the aftermath of the floods. Unless we receive new pledges to the Floods 2011 Rapid Response Plan, millions of people will be left in need of food, clean water and essential medicines for months to come," said Timo Pakkala, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also called for the kind of generous response and solidarity that donors had showed during the last year's devastating floods.
A top official of the world food programme said the world community has not taken the floods in Pakistan as seriously as it did last year. "The funding is not coming as swiftly and as fast at the levels it came to the response of the floods of last year," he said.
July/August floods of 2010 have wreaked havocs at national scale and as more as 20 million people were directly affected. It was following the devastating floods realised that Sindh emerged the worst victim of the deluges. Total 4,415 villages of 19 districts in the province were completely submerged in water upsetting 41,39,847 people.
At that time, one can refer to the records, United Nations had appealed for $460 million at a session attended by the decision makers from across the world. Turkey, India, Japan, China, Canada, US, in fact many of the countries, pledged and extended financial supports to Pakistan. As per a UN's report, $272 million had been received for the initial floods emergency response plan. At what mark the amount would have been reached after materialization of all pledges is for anybody's guess. Incontrovertibly, the country must have had -maybe if not in proportion to the losses extrapolated in billions of dollars-handsome cash and in-kind supports to overcome the challenges of 2010 floods.
What happened this time? Why foreign donors seem to be oblivious to the woes of Pakistan that most of the time remains in the international media? A point to be reckoned with is the trust deficit the present governance system is cultivating at the international front. Misuse of funds and donated materials is the biggest concern of foreign donors and countries. Advisably, further direct involvements of Oxfam, Unicef, and other humanitarian agencies in the relief works can eliminate or minimize the misappropriations of any sort. The tense Pak-US relations may also be a reason of slow inflows of financial assistances or poor international response to the Floods 2011 Rapid Response Plan. This is beyond solution barring US itself comes to rescue as it did last year by generously handing out $70 million to its then close ally.
The recent monsoon floods have affected more than eight million people in 22 districts out of 23 districts in Sindh. About one million homes were reduced to rubbles or washed away, 350 plus people perished and staggering 72 per cent of crops on 4.5 million acres of land destroyed in the worst affected 16 districts
Independent donor agencies have also kicked off relief activities in the flood-affected south. They also conducted independent surveys in the areas that are reeling under the most horrible implications of the floods. The surveys coming from well-established institutions are important to cross verify the losses estimated by disaster management authority and international relief bodies. It is worthwhile to mention that during release of the plan, UN estimated flood-hit people at five million in mid September, but the figure was revised up to eight million plus this month.
A rapid assessment of Badin and Tando Mohammad Khan by an independent welfare organization reported that 413,369 houses have been completely damaged while 367,710 acres of cultivated lands in these two badly battered districts were underwater. According to the organization, most of the people it interviewed in these areas said half of their livestock were washed away or plagued with ailments. Poultry has faced no different fate.
Sindh livestock department was reported as noting 4.5 million animals had been shifted to safer places from flood-hit areas. Understandably, the department cannot extend helping hands across the province. People are also taking self-help measures by migrating to the nearby areas along with their holdings. Rescue camps set up at Hyderabad and other urban settlements are seen crowded with the flood-victims. Cattles are hooked near to the camps signalling impending health issues for the occupants and residents of the neighbouring localities.
Post-flood management is a daunting task. Flood-hit population is in need of foods, shelters, and medicinal helps. The proportion of disaster is so monumental that even World Food Programme alone cannot tide it over. All households that are marooned or could not be relocated are to be provided shelters topically. Health issues have already started to raise their heads, and thereby needing a well-coordinated health action plan. Farmers can come back to life in areas where water has receded if monetary assistances as well as inputs for cultivation of sunflower, wheat, or other seasonal crops be distributed free of cost.
Until last reports, the federal government found itself irresponsive to its flood relief programme due to paucity of funds. Sindh government relayed its concern to the federal government that it urgently needed funds for the flood-affected people. The funds signify pledges that the prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani has made in that Rs20,000 is to be dispatched to every flood-hit family. According to the government news agency, under Pakistan Cards Scheme one billion rupees have been doled out to the flood-hit people of Tando Mohammad Khan and Badin while the provincial authority has spent Rs5 billion on flood relief activities. Victims at Benazirabad and Sanghar are to receive the said donation under the scheme.