Chaos and Desperation Hamper Pakistan Relief Efforts

People pass through a flooded street in Kyhber-Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. Flood victims grow desperate with the sluggish delivery of humanitarian aid. Photo by: Abdul Majeed Goraya / IRIN

With humanitarian assistance slow to arrive, hungry and desperate Pakistani flood victims are said to be resorting to drastic means of survival. 

Looting and protests over food are being reported from hard-hit areas in the Islamic nation more than two weeks into the fatal monsoon floods.

In Sindh province, people blocked a highway in protest of the slow aid delivery, according to the United Nations. Crowds unloaded two trucks carrying aid in Punjab, CNN reports.

“Drinking water and food are the major issues,” The New York Times quoted Jamshaid Dasti, a member of Parliament from Muzaffargarh. “People are looting and snatching food from trucks because they are hungry and there is no system for relief.”

Distribution of relief supplies in the flood-hit nation is hampered as hungry mobs stop aid convoys, an aid worker said according to CNN.

Pakistanis have accused their government of being slow in responding to the nation’s worst flooding in decades, which U.S. officials said will erode President Asif Ali Zardari’s political standing and undermine U.S. efforts to bolster support for the civilian government in the Asian nation, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Monsoon rains have left Pakistan underwater and some 20 million people displaced. The initial damage assessment estimates the cost of relief and early recovery at around USD3.5 billion, according to the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum, a consortium of 29 of the largest international non-governmental organizations in the nation.

A third wave of flooding is expected until early September, which poses a threat to Pakistan’s river network, said Ajmal Shad, senior director at the Floods Forecasting Division in Lahore.

“The next two weeks are very crucial, since our rivers are already running over burdened,” the official said as quoted by Bloomberg through SFGate.

International response

Donors have so far pledged USD161 million, or 35 percent, of the United Nations’ USD459.7 million aid appeal for the flood-ravaged nation, Zamir Akram, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.N. told journalists  Aug. 17 in Geneva.

He said the Pakistani government is hoping that a special session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York on the disaster will spur a faster and more generous international response both for relief and rehabilitation efforts.

“The initial response was sluggish and disappointing, but awareness is growing,” Akram said as quoted by Swissinfo.ch.

Aid workers and officials at the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs say Pakistan’s links to extremist groups such as he Taliban and al-Qaida as well as concerns over corruption are partly to be blamed for the belated donor response, according to The New York Times.

With aid trickling in and access to affected communities hindered by damaged infrastructure, aid agencies are scaling up their operations in the Pakistan.

“The next critical step for us will be to clean out and disinfect wells and bring clean water via tanker trucks to the devastated communities,” Peter Biro of the International Rescue Committee was quoted by CNN.

Oxfam is seeking USD6.6 million to help bring aid to more than 650,000 Pakistanis.

“Aid is getting through, despite the difficulties we’ve faced in many areas with roads and bridges washed away. In the past couple of days, our staff have been able to reach communities in the Upper Swat who had previously been inaccessible. But there is still a huge task ahead of us,” said Oxfam Australia Emergency Manager Richard Young.

The World Food Program, which has so far received USD30 million of its USD150 million aid appeal for Pakistan, says its operations in Punjab and Sindh are a bit faster than before.

“We’re putting the final pieces in place on a distribution system which can reach the huge number of people in need in the shortest possible time,” said Wolfgang Herbinger, the country director of WFP in Pakistan.

More aid coming

Spain will contribute 1 million euros (USD1.2 million) to the WFP and channel 1 million euros to UNICEF and 500,000 euros to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The American Red Cross is increasing its support for Pakistani relief efforts to USD1 million. Meanwhile, World Vision and Procter & Gamble will help to provide clean water supply in Pakistan.

The U.S. has also given some USD90 million to back relief and recovery efforts in Pakistan, including financing for the Pakistan National Disaster Management Authority.

About the author

  • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.