Sunday, September 19, 2010

Supporting Pakistan Relief Efforts

By Yasmin Qureshi and Abira Ashfaq, ZNet, September 19, 2010
Yasmin Qureshi’s ZSpace Page

More than 20 million people are impacted by the floods in Pakistan and more than 1.2 million homes destroyed. The media has highlighted a growing concern that the floods could strengthen militant groups that are engaged in relief efforts. However, the Pakistani military is in a greater position to benefit, particularly in the absence of a strong democratic leadership as their rescue efforts are glorified over the work of progressive organizations, and even the government.

It is for these reasons the international community must support the work of progressive grassroots Pakistani groups. These are organizations that have ties to the flood affected regions where they have worked with famers, laborer, women and children to bring about the much needed social change. They will be there working for long term rehabilitation as waters recede, and after the international relief organizations are gone, and individual efforts diminish.

In addition to progressive organizations, the international community must compel the government at provincial, district, and local levels to remain accountable by strengthening the National Disaster Management Authority (which provides updates of affectees), and ask for oversight and coordination between thousands of individuals and NGOs. Instead of an unceasing focus on the corruption of top level bureaucrats and politicians, there is a need to build grassroots institutions.

The Sindh Rural Support Organization (SRSO) loosely collaborates with the government. Through a World Food Program, the SRSO targets to deliver one month ration to about 42,000 families in five districts in Sindh. It is also collaborating with USAID and UNICEF. It has been installing hand pumps and dry toilets. “Camps need drinking water supply, toilets and food supplies – the very basics which are somehow missed by our government,” wrote Saqib Khan, an SRSO volunteer, from a relief camp in Sukkur, Sindh. Established in 2003, SRSO’s mandate is to alleviate poverty by harnessing the people’s potential and to undertake development activities in nine districts of Sindh.

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