Issued by Gift of the Givers 23 August 2010
PAKISTAN FLOODS: DESPERATION AND DIGNITY
Greetings of Peace
What an experience! Neither words nor pictures can adequately capture the human emotion of the unfolding flood drama in Pakistan. Its Sunday, 22 August, 5:30pm Pakistani time; we enter the camp of Razakabad, one hour’s drive from Karachi. A sea of humanity greets us; 10 000 people camped: in a tent city in an open ground, in the college across the road and many shelterless, exposed to the environment, their only possession, the mat they are sitting on.
As dusk appears, trucks whizz in an ever increasing flow of new refugees, 170km away from their villages. They have been in a state of continuous displacement as the Indus River captures km upon km of inhabitable land. This is now their new home. In this atmosphere of uncertainty, pain, squalor and human suffering, it is impossible to miss the astounding human quality that permeates, that penetrates your heart and captures your soul: it is the Quite Dignity and Patience of a Docile people, who readily accept that this is faith, “it is written”, it’s what we call Taqdeer, Kismet or Destiny. No Lamentation, no wailing, only an unbelievable faith that the Almighty will Prevail, and as we go tent to tent, handing our the freshly prepared biryani and bottled water men and women raise their eyes heavenward, their soul connects with yours and then the quite utterance that we have nothing to thank you with but our prayer.
When the trucks arrived only teenagers and little children ran behind them. The desperation was palpable; in many instances children would cry, “please give us water…water…water…”. As you approached the tents, women would recede in the background, modest, hungry and dignified. No adult will stretch out an arm, will not even ask and only when you stretch your arm out and put the food into their chest, then they reciprocate; and you FEEL it; the eyes, the lips and the facial expression says it all. We send the women member of our team to converse with the women in the camp, in a very discreet manner as to what their needs are. The list is modest; baby milk is topmost as is the desire to be independent, to cook for themselves. Your own observation tells you that the need is far greater; malnourished adults, emaciated children, naked babies and empty tents. These people need alot and so the bargaining commenced.
It’s 11pm Pakistani time. Various of our team members drive to the homes of suppliers. We need their after hours contact numbers. It cannot wait till tomorrow. Human misery has to be rapidly alleviated to the extent it is practically possible, babies need to be fed and clothed. The shopping lists are prepared:
- staple foods
- baby milk
- bottled water
- spoons and eating utensils
- several thousand sets of clothing
- sheets for covering and towels
- hygiene packs
The businessmen are in a giving mood; the state of their countrymen having touched their hearts; they witnessed the telethon running on every local television station, the most notable being ex-cricketer Imran Khan’s campaign. Massive discounts, no transport charges and a willingness to assist in ever way possible, the negotiations terminate around 1am. The team will go into the markets in the morning to procure the rest.
Gift of the Givers relief campaign has taken off in earnest in Sindh but this is not all. Military helicopters have been flying our food packs from Islamabad to Jacobobad and several other areas. Tomorrow we meet the military and the Surgeon General of Pakistan, General Burney, to step up our diverse response.
Visit www.giftofthegivers.org for the latest pics.
Imtiaz Sooliman (in Pakistan)
Cell: 083 236 4029 (international roaming)