As per my own weird-little-norm-of-obsessive-news-following I have been tracking the floods in Pakistan for a couple of weeks. I quietly did my part, sending what I could to help affected families.
But it wasn’t until this morning that I decided to come out publicly and urge people to get involved.
Because according to numerous new reports, like this one from Canada’s Globe and Mail, two major reasons relief agencies are having such a hard time raising funds to help people in the affected areas are:
Not enough global media coverage.
Pakistan suffers from an image deficit.
The first is –somewhat – understandable. I lived and worked in Pakistan for over three years, believe me, I know. Pakistan is a challenging working environment for journalists. Infrastructure makes travel in many parts of the country difficult at the best of times. In the chaos of the worst disaster to hit the country in decades, it’s not unreasonable to cut the media a little slack for struggling to get “on scene.”
The second is harder for me to digest. Certainly it is easy for anyone sitting outside Pakistan to look at years of news coverage that has focused on the Taliban, suicide bomb attacks, honor killings and other human rights abuses to view the country with a tinge of suspicion. And without a doubt the government and intelligence agencies of Pakistan have not adopted a long-term view of what is best for their country.
But I say, as an American female who lived and worked there in the years after the September 11 attacks, that the people of Pakistan are some of the most welcoming and generous people I have ever had the privilege to be among.
The overwhelming majority of Pakistani families eke out a meager living, scrambling everyday to put food on their tables, with little hope for help from a government that considers them expendable.
It is these people – mothers, fathers, sons and daughters – that are now struggling to cope with unprecedented devastation unleashed by monsoon rains and subsequent flooding.
The international relief community has put out a desperate call for help. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon flew to Pakistan the weekend of Aug. 14-15 and said the following: “I’m here to send a message to the world: these unprecedented floods require an unprecedented response. The world must stand with the people of Pakistan.”
Over 20 million people have been affected, entire villages washed away. UNICEF and other relief agencies fear for the health of 3.5 million children surviving with their families without proper shelter, clean water or food.
And it is for those people that we MUST step forward and act as we did after the 2004 Asian tsunami, as we did for the people of Haiti after January’s earthquake.
You don’t even have to leave you chair to reach out and help. Here is a listing of ways you can help:
VIA CELLULAR TELEPHONE:
U.S. State Department/UNHCR: By texting the word SWAT to telephone number 50555, cellular phone users will be able to donate $10 to help flood victims in Pakistan through the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
VIA THE WEB:
American Red Cross
Save the Children
Islamic Relief USA
So, please, get involved. Tweet, donate, blog … spread the word. Do what you can.
The people of Pakistan need our help ….