Monday, August 23, 2010

Credibility Crisis in Natural Disaster

Cholera, typhoid, paratyphoid, dysentery, diarrhea, weil’s disease (leptospirosis) have surfaced among survivors and aid workers warn that the waterborne disease could add to the death toll of about 2000 people if allowed to spread. Mostly children in relief camps are in precarious conditions due to acute shortage of drinkable water. There were reports that Sindhi feudal lords influenced the local authorities and managed to break dams from the angles and places , which might save their own crops. A tussle between former Prime Minsiter Mir Zafar Ullah Jamali and present Federal Minister Mir Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani erupted on breaking a dam , the former PM castigated serious allegations on the latter.
A fresh surge of floodwater swelled the Indus River near Kotri Barrage, threatening previously spared cities and towns in the south.

The crisis has battered Pakistan's economy and undermined its political stability at a time when the United States and NATO need its steadfast cooperation against Islamist extremism. The U.N. has appealed for an initial $500 million to provide relief to Pakistan but has said the country will need billions to rebuild once the floodwaters recede. Ban KI MOON’s low key visit to flood-devastated areas, did not spark off the relief activities at the behest of international community .

The United States has so far donated the most to the relief effort, at least $100 million, and has sent military helicopters to rescue stranded people and drop off food and water. Washington hopes the assistance will help improve its image in the country — however marginally — as it seeks its support in the battle against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.
"So far, if anyone has practically given us maximum help, it is America," Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Saturday when a Pakistani reporter suggested the U.S. has done little since the crisis started. Operating in partnership with the Pakistan military, the U.S. aircraft have since Aug. 5 rescued more than 3,500 people and transported more than 412,000 pounds (186,000 kilograms) of emergency supplies, the State Department said.
Cholera can lead to severe dehydration and death without prompt treatment, and containing cholera outbreaks is considered a high priority following floods.

The Pakistani crisis began in late July, when unusually heavy monsoon rains tore through the country from its mountainous northwest. Hundreds of thousands of homes have been destroyed. Agriculture has been severely hit, with an estimated 1.7 million acres (nearly 700,000 hectares) of farmland wiped out. It is reported that Pakistan suffered 400 Billion rupees loss , though exact figures will be estimated after the end of catastrophic floods.

There is a serious trust deficit between government of Pakistan and international community, which attracted heated correspondence between European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and French President. EU president underscored in a letter to Sarkozy that Brussels was “the first to react” on July 30 by providing aid to Pakistan, which totals 40 million euros (51.5 million dollars).“But beyond the 40 million euros which you mentioned, my services have worked tirelessly in order to ensure that this money is spent on the ground as quickly as possible,” Barroso wrote.

The commission chief said his team was once more “demonstrating its professionalism and efficiency in responding to great humanitarian crises.”In a letter to Barroso on Sunday, Sarkozy said Brussels should “do more”than what had been offered so far.
“I count on you for the EU to show its unity and determination,” the French president wrote. Sarkozy said France would soon make proposals to the EU in order to give the 27-nation bloc a “reaction capacity for this type of crisis.”But Barroso noted that he has already begun an “action plan” aimed at ensuring “the best possible mobilisation and coherence” of aid. Humanitarian aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva will “very soon” propose new policies for the EU's response to crises abroad, he said. Barroso also said that Pakistan would likely need more aid and that the EU would decide how much more to provide before the end of August.

Torrential monsoon rain triggered catastrophic floods which have affected a fifth of Pakistan, wiping out villages, rich farm land, infrastructure and killing an estimated 2000 people in the nation's worst natural disaster. The willingness among Germans to donate to aid organisations helping the victims of Pakistan’s devastating floods has slowly begun to grow after a sluggish start, the German Red Cross (DRK). As the disaster began unfolding in late July, Germans were hesitant to contribute at first. But as the situation there becomes more desperate, there is increased motivation to help the flood victims, DRK president Rudolf Seiters told daily Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung.

There is an acute credibility crisis on Pakistani government’s part, as far as the distribution of donations and funds for affected people of Floods in Pakistan . The matter was earlier reported in the press that during earthquake of 2005, more than 80000 people were killed in the tragedy . The world community donated generously. I was spokesman/member of Action Committee of Margalla Towers Residents Committee; Tower was destroyed and more than 80 residents were killed in the quake . We fought the a legal and administrative fight in the streets and in the Supreme Court for three years, during these years many world leaders visited ill-fated Towers and announced aid for help and rehabilitation- that aid was also meant for wretched people of Kashmir. A department ERRA (ERRA : Earthquake Reconstruction & Rehabilitation Authority ( was established and Billions of Pakistani rupees were deposited by World Community to ERRA through Pak Government.

It was believed that with such money, the whole Kashmir and Margalla Towers would be re-built on new Building Codes, as Chief Justice, Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary ordered to the previous government (President Musharaf and PM Shoukat Aziz) in our case of Margalla Towers Tragedy. The affected people of Kashmir areas are still staging demonstration against the governments (previous and present) that there is only 5 % rehabilitation work has been done. Reportedly, Zardari Government decided to take 600 bn Pak rupees, out of 900 Bn rupees from ERRA’s account to some other unknown projects. In the eyes of some political observers, it is a glaring example of mal-practice in the rehabilitation process, which was started almost 4 and half years ago.

In the present circumstances, the Zardari government is accused of massive corruption and misappropriation of the funds. The fellow citizens and international Community did not repose confidence to donate directly to Pakistani government’s exchequer, which slowed down the rescue and relief operations in Flood affected areas. The most undesirable visit of President Zardari to France and UK added fuel to the injury to the already frustrated people of Pakistan, while overseas Pakistani protested outside the edifice in UK, where Zardari stayed. Even he was humiliated by a “ shoe throwing’ incident in his PPPP party meeting at London; which was widely reported by vibrant Pakistani Media, attracted the wrath of the government to shut down major TV Channels and setting ablaze the newspapers, mostly in interior Sindh?

The opposition leader , Mr Nawaz Sharif ( Former two time Prime Minister of Pakistan), decided to join hands with the government , with the desire to establish an independent Flood Relief Commission to dispel , severe national and international criticism of alleged mistrust on Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif and PM Yusuf Raza Gillani held a mutual press conference and announced a joint strategy for proposed Commission. They also announced few names, as members for the said Commission, which included, some very respectable former judges of superior courts, which include, Rana Bhagwandas, Fakhruddin G Ibrahim and Nasir Zahid.. After five days , Zardari Government turned down the proposed commission, without any justification and plausible reasons. The sudden U-turn of the government aroused the suspicions that the members of the proposed Independent Flood Commission may not tilt to their political whims or PPPP government will have no access to the money to ‘utilize’ for some other purposes.. Not only Germany but other countries of Europe, USA and even Islamic countries are reluctant to donate generously as orchestrated in the previous times of Natural calamities.

However Journalists For International Peace appealed to Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General UNO, and other world leaders to come forward and establish a bridge to assist the Flood affected people directly. JIP proposed that there must be a robust infrastructure of NGOs of respective countries with the support of local field experts and volunteers, having own monitoring system of funds’ utilization in the relief and rehabilitation process. In this regard the wretched people will get direct access to the funds meant for them in the shape of medicine, food and re-building of infrastructure. The proposal contains that it will also attract indigenous employment opportunities for the locals under administrative control of the NGOs of the respected countries. As far the aid of international donations and funds are concerned – it is the same red-tapism of alleged corrupt bureaucracy, which still did not distribute the donations/funds to the affected people of Earthquake 2005. The hue and cry of the affected people are quite obvious and natural. At present Media of Pakistan and some saner elements, TV Channels and few political representatives have started campaigns at their own, which is picking up the momentum. However, the role of Pakistan Army, in the rescue and relief operations, is considered as marvelous.

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