Thursday, September 9, 2010

Waka Waka – This time for Pakistan

Pakistan these days is in grip of floods and post-floods disastrous situation. While the flood waters have devastated the three fourth of the upper part and have left millions of people homeless and in utter misery, the flood water continues its downstream journey in the province of Sind before falling into the Arabia Sea.

Much has been written about the damages and sufferings and even witnessed by many around the world including the UN Secretary General and most recently the celebrated Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, the Goodwill Ambassador of the UN, who is currently visiting Pakistan. The damage is colossal which has hit a severe blow to the already struggling economy of Pakistan. While actual statistics would take time to surface, but rough calculations show at least 20 million homeless and more than a million houses completely destroyed. According to agricultural officials in Pakistan the floods have destroyed about 500,000 tons of wheat and as many as two million bales of cotton were lost. A World Bank assessment shows that 17 million acres of agricultural land has been destroyed. As per another damage assessment report, floods have damaged more than a million acres of sugar cane, cotton and rice fields and caused 250 billion rupees ($2.9 billion) of agricultural losses. The President of World Bank, Robert Zoellick has put the number to be around $1 billion.

And that is not all. Hundreds of miles of electricity pylons and gas lines have been destroyed and numerous power stations have been flooded. Besides many other smaller buildings like schools and hotels, 137 bridges have been damaged in the northern Khyber Pakhtunkwa province only. The whole of Charsadda district and a major portion of Nowshera are swamped. The damage in Balochistan, Punjab and Sind province has yet to be compiled and reported. And like Nowshera, many other towns and villages where the water has receded give look of large ponds as the water would take time to evaporate. And even after that, the soil would be like a quagmire for a long time, making it difficult for its reuse for agriculture purpose or even for building houses.

As a rough estimate the country’s economy has suffered something like $5 billion.

The people of Pakistan have shown a strong commitment to fight back the after effects of this grave natural calamity that has no parallels in even last one century. NGOs and ordinary people with the help of some philanthropist and celebrities are busy round the clock in fund raising and sending truckloads of relief goods to affected areas. Even those living abroad have donated generously. But how much those earning their bread and butter in foreign lands can share. The sad part is that some very rich people of Pakistan with their vaults full have yet to make any handsome donation.

Although the world community has responded positively but there seems reluctance on its part to donate generously to make good the losses suffered by Pakistan. Some attribute it to the credibility of the current government in Pakistan and others don’t realize the actual extent of the damage. Therefore, most foreign donors are reluctant to provide monetary aid or assistance, but have promised to provide aid in kind to help people in distress. The aid pledged so far is around $500 million, which is a fraction of the damages suffered.

While the credibility issue can be addressed later, the fact of the matter and the need of the hour is to help Pakistan to stand on its feet again. It is WAKA WAKA (“Do it”) – This time for Pakistan.

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