Aid and disaster | By Waseem Shabbir


Aid and disaster

THE recent disastrous floodings have wreaked havoc in Pakistan claiming life casualties over 1200 including 416 children.

More than 33 million were badly hit in this disaster. However, a large number of flood affectees have been successfully rescued and shifted to the safer areas with the coordinated efforts by the rescue teams and volunteers.

Now, the next exigent step is to supply food, medicine and shelter to the affected families. Nevertheless, rebuilding the infrastructure devastated by flash floods and extreme precipitation would be the most daunting task to execute.

This whole rehabilitation and reconstruction requires humongous finances to be spent on floods ravaged areas and afflicted people.

Pitifully, the unprecedented flash floods brought more destruction to the already underdeveloped areas proving viciously fatal for the dwindling economy of Pakistan.

Poor and downtrodden have suffered the most by this disaster. As per assessment, the complete restoration of flood hit areas may take more than five years.

No fewer than $10 billion are emergently required for the rebuilding and repairs of a number of devastated roads, buildings, bridges, houses, schools, hospitals and hotels.

Although, ample flood relief funds are being raised by the government, international organisations and local community, they do not seem sufficient to overcome destruction caused by recent calamitous floodings.

And the dark side of the picture is that the funds which have been collected so far hold no surety to be spent wholly due to the prevalent malpractices of misappropriation and embezzlement of funds.

Our past is fully lithered a with number of such egregious and shameful practices during the times of disasters.

Some reports disclose that during floods in 2010, Saudi Arabia’s gift of 252 lakh tents to flood affectees was illegally sold in the market by the involved commission mafia.

A “Civil society flood situation report” released by ‘People’s Accountability Commission on floods’ disclosed that an amount of Rs 8 billion pledged for the rehabilitation of flood affected people under Annual Development Programme 2011-2012 allocated to MPAs of Sindh province for development works in their constituencies was brazenly devoured by them.

Similarly, Rs 12 billion provided in the “Sindh Social Relief Fund” for responding national disasters and emergencies were also not utilised in 2010-2011 rather the same amount was transferred to the federal government to pay Rs 300,000 to each of 35,000 beneficiaries under BISP.

Likewise, a report by The Daily Telegraph, a British newspaper, divulged that more than 300 million pounds of aid to help rebuild destructive areas of Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake was dishonesty spent on other projects.

A senior official of (ERRA) Pakistan’s Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority also exposed that Rs 12 billion pledged for repairs were sheerly diverted from budget to other governmental projects.

In addition, after earthquake in 2005, the Contractors Association President Muhammad Anwar Abbasi had also accused ERRA of corruption and misuse of funds.

According to authentic reports, 4043 projects worth of Rs 60 billion were approved for health, education and communication in Abbottabad, Mansehra, Battagram, Kohistan and Shangla.

However, ERRA could hardly release Rs 15 billion and rest of the heavy amounts was circumventingly embezzled.

A report in a British newspaper alleged that Shehbaz Sharif with the collusion of his family members and some confidential embezzled and laundered the money out of £500 million UK foreign aid for relief activities after the massive earthquake in 2005.

In a like manner, Pakistan’s former PM Yousuf Raza Gilani also contritely held the necklace donated by Turkey’s first lady Emine Erdogan after 2010 floods in Pakistan.

For current floods disaster, aid details are as follows. The Red Cross Society of China under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Framework has recently announced emergency cash assistance of $300,000 including 25000 tents, 50000 blanket, 50000 awnings other supplies for the floods-affected people.

The European Union is providing 1.8 million Euros in humanitarian aid to the affected families. The United States through the US Agency for International Development will be providing $100,000 in immediate assistance to support the people affected by ravaging floods.

Amidst this time of adversity, Uk has also announced to provide an emergency aid of 1.5 million Euros for flood relief efforts in Pakistan.

Besides seeking $160 million in emergency aid for Pakistan floods, the UN has allocated $3 million for flood response in Pakistan.

Imran Khan raised Rs 5 billion funds for flood victims via international telethon. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has collected about one trillion and 30 billion rupees from the United Nations member countries.

According to “Al-Monitor”, Turkish government has sent seven planes loaded with tents, food, medicines and more to Pakistan so far.

Now the gigantic task would be to sincerely utilise the accumulated aid for the rehabilitation of affected people and rebuilding of damaged infrastructure.

Nevertheless, the precariousness over the proper and just usage of funds gives rise to so many questions: Will the aid genuinely reach the affected families?

Will they actually get shelter, food, medicine and tents? Will the affected people be completely compensated for the losses of their crops, cattle, properties and houses?

Will the amassed funds be honestly spent on repair and reconstruction? Deplorably, if wrongful practices of malfeasance and embezzlements of funds like that in the past are recommitted and the acquired aid goes into the corrupt hands instead of truly spending on the restoration, it will certainly be the matter of great degradation for the whole nation.

If funds are meant to be illegally devoured like always, they are of no use and all humanitarian efforts will be in vain.

Therefore, it is the high time for the incumbent government and the institutions involved to deviate from the malpractices of the past and make honest use conglomerated money in order to provide affectees with ultimate relief in every aspect.

Moreover, in this time of rising demand of food and other usable commodities, the wholesalers and the retailers by keeping aside their profiteerings, they must keep prices of food, medicine and costumes as low as possible.

Finally, we as a nation need to stand with our affected brothers and sisters who are in trouble nowadays.

—The writer is a contributing columnist based in Gujranwala.


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