The Crisis in Pakistan and How You Can Help

The recent floods that raged through Pakistan have caused devastation of enormous proportions in a country hit by a major earthquake in 2005. The human and economic toll has been massive - with an initial estimate of 15 million people directly affected. To give a sense of scale, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami affected about 2.5 million people and Hurricane Katrina in the United States approximately one half million.

Global Philanthropist Circle Member Raza Jafar, a Pakistani citizen based in the United Arab Emirates, visited his home country recently and reported on the situation in the article below. He also shared with us some other information and ideas on how you can help.


Pakistan’s Unimaginable Devastation

By Raza Jafar, August 20, 2010

Fearing rising waters, a mother in Kalam, Pakistan rushed to evacuate her children, then went back to lock up the house. She was swept away with it, leaving her family mourning her loss.

A bride-to-be waited in a hut with her brothers, who ran for their lives when floodwaters suddenly surged. The boys escaped, only to watch in horror and helplessness as the water swept away their sister.

These are just a few of the anecdotes I heard when I visited my native Pakistan to tour the flood-ravaged nation. I saw massive destruction. I heard heart-wrenching tales of sadness and loss.

There are at least 15 million more stories like those. Fifteen million.

photoRaza Jafar, Vice Chairman of Emirates Investments Group and CEO of Enshaa, is a member of the Global Philanthropists Circle and Synergos’ Board of Directors. He is a Pakistani citizen based in the United Arab Emirates. This essay originally appeared at Forbes.com.

It is hard to comprehend the scale of the devastation from the recent floods in Pakistan until you see if for yourself. That is why I went. An estimated 15 to 20 million people have been affected, according to Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations.

That’s roughly one of every 10 people in the nation. More than 60,000 square miles, he estimates, are under water.

It is as if the entire state of Florida were submerged, all of its people losing their homes, their crops, and any property they couldn’t carry while swimming. They would have nothing to eat or drink except what humanitarians donated and disaster relief workers could get to them.

In Pakistan, the human and economic toll has been massive. Swollen rivers cover fields of grain. Bridges were washed away, along with homes, companies, and animals.

Kalam, in the Swat Valley, was completely cut off from the lower Swat River valley, and 400,000 people there now depend on donated food, water and medicine to survive. I would never have been able to imagine the disaster if I had not decided to see it for myself.

The magnitude of the horror dwarfs that of other recent natural disasters: more Pakistanis have been affected, according to the UN, than those impacted by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, the cyclone that hit Myanmar in 2007 and the earthquake in Haiti earlier this year -- combined. The floods caused devastation of enormous proportions for a country that lost 80,000 people in an earthquake just five years ago.

Pakistani authorities are working around the clock to help flood victims. I visited the Secretary of Defense, who coordinated a visit to the Pakistani Army headquarters and the National Disaster Management Authority, set up after the 2005 earthquake, which directs field operations from a situation room that collects real-time information from provincial and district centers across the country. They are coordinating rescues of people stranded in floodwaters, building temporary bridges and delivering relief via helicopter and Hercules aircraft.

Later, I joined a delegation from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as they toured the Swat Valley -- an area famous for its natural beauty and one of the first areas ravaged by the flood. After an aerial survey, visits on the ground and a detailed presentation of the devastation, the ADB team met with the president of Pakistan to announce a $2 billion flood relief fund.

As a member of the Global Philanthropists Circle, I am doing what I can to help. Here are two groups taking donations to help flood victims, in case you want to join me: Pakistan Army and Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Fund.