Slow Reponse Aids Radicals in Pakistan Floods
Unfortunately, this mea culpa of sorts by Mr. Zardari has done little to change the grim reality on the ground. In fact, the situation has been further exacerbated by the absence of leadership by the ruling feudal elite such as Mr. Zardari during recent heavy flooding of large parts of Pakistan, including the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province which is the center of the Taliban insurgency in Pakistan. This vacuum has been promptly filled by the rapid aid provided to the millions of unfortunate flood victims by the "terrorist" organizations which are being targeted by the "international community" in its "war on terror" of which Mr. Zardari claims to be a part.
In addition to the 1600 deaths reported so far, the current estimate is that about 14 million people are affected by the deadly deluge, which is now inundating southern Sind province of the country. The affected population is larger than in other humanitarian crises, including the 2004 Asian tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir quake, the Swat refugee crisis of 2009 and the Haiti quake of 2010.
Almost one in 10 of Pakistan's population has been affected by the floods and at least 6 million are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. "The flood waters have devastated towns and village, downed power and communications lines, washed away bridges and roads and inflicted major damage to buildings and houses," UN humanitarian chief John Holmes told the media.
"While the death toll may be much lower than in some major disasters... it is clear that this disaster is one of the most challenging that any country has faced in recent years," he added.
Long Term Damage:
There has been a devastating impact to the already poor infrastructure in many parts of Pakistan. "The floodwaters have devastated towns and village, downed power and communications lines, washed away bridges and roads and inflicted major damage to buildings and houses," according to UN's John Holmes.
Already suffering from slow economy, high unemployment and rising food prices even before the floods hit them, tens of millions of Pakistanis living on the edge will have to deal with further loss of homes and livelihoods in the disaster. Some of the worst hit areas have already seen all crops wiped out and many livestock lost, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). About 700 000 hectares of crops are under water or destroyed, with many surviving animals without feed. The combination of Russian fires and Pakistani floods has already driven international wheat prices to a two-year high, according to the Wall Street Journal. At about $7 a bushel, the wheat prices are still about half of what they were back in 2007-2008.
Zardari's assessment of the loss of hearts and minds is correct, but his actions are wrong. His absence from the country during the ongoing disaster in Pakistan has sent the worst possible message to the affected people that says that he doesn't really care. Compounding the situation is the extremely slow response of the international community to the unfolding natural disaster that is being called the worst to hit Pakistan in about half a century.
Call For Action:
All is not lost, however. There is still time, though not a lot of time, to make amends by Pakistani government and the international community. They can begin by committing and providing the needed funds, sending in the necessary relief supplies and by deploying a larger fleet of Pakistani and American helicopters with aid workers to reach the trapped people. After ensuring clean execution of short term rescue and relief operations, they must follow up with serious long-term reconstruction efforts to restore and rebuild the lives of millions of affected people. This reconstruction effort would require tens of billions of dollars in the next few years, far more than the immediate half a billion dollar aid requested by the UN.
In the meanwhile, people of goodwill around the world should do what they can by contributing funds through established charities, or by volunteering to alleviate the extraordinary suffering of over 14 million Pakistanis ravaged by the great deluge of this century.
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