Raising awareness for Pakistan

Pakistan devastated by flooding that has displaced millions and resulted in 1,900 deaths

Farooq Syed, Comm ’13 says that the international response to the flooding in Pakistan has been slow and underwhelming.
Farooq Syed, Comm ’13 says that the international response to the flooding in Pakistan has been slow and underwhelming.
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The Indus River Valley began to flood in Northern Pakistan nearly two months ago, but many Queen’s students are only now learning about its devastating impact, president of Queen’s Pakistani Student Association (QPSA), Farooq Syed said. Though the flooding has recently stopped, it affected 20 million people and killed 1,900 as it moved south through the country.

“No part of Pakistan was spared,” Syed, Comm ’11, said, adding that while the current death toll may seem a like smaller number compared to other natural disasters, damage is never immediate with floods.

“The very nature of floods is people get warnings beforehand,” he said. “But many of these people are very poor and reluctant to leave their land and lifelong earnings and go to a relief camp.”

Syed said factors like waterborne disease, malaria and malnutrition in both the refugee camps and villages where people have not evacuated will continue to increase the death toll, but he worries that people may not take these extended risks into account.

“People only realize slowly how big the disaster is,” he said “My biggest fear is that people will forget soon, and international aid will stop,” he said, adding that since there is no way of knowing how long it will take the country to recover, there is no set timeline for international aid to stop.

He said the global response Pakistan has received has been underwhelming. So far, the US and Saudi Arabia have donated the most monetary aid to Pakistan at over $75 million and $106 million respectively.

“The international community has been very slow in their response compared to other natural disasters like in Haiti,” he said, adding that people’s prejudices and preconceived notions about Pakistan may have influenced their choice not to donate money to help flood victims.

“People are scared to donate, which is unfortunate. The slow response has a lot to do with politics – some reports say that there’s bias in terms of where aid is going, such as specific religious groups,” he said. “These reports are absolutely baseless because there is no way to differentiate between who the aid is helping.”

Syed recommends that people donate to organizations such as Unicef or Red Cross if they’re worried their money won’t be distributed properly. These organizations have workers who are distributing the money and doing groundwork themselves so they are more credible, he said.

“Even if you pay one dollar, that’s like a dinner for a family of four because of the exchange rate,” he said. “A little contribution makes a big change.”

QPSA has started to raise awareness and funds for the flood victims with talks at the beginning of lectures and a booth in Mac-Corry So far they have raised over $900 and hope to raise between $5,000-6,000, which they will donate to Unicef.

“We had a flood awareness week last week and had a booth set up in Mac-Corry, and many people didn’t even know about the flood,” said Syed. “We raised some money but our efforts are just starting. We want to have a couple more days in Mac-Corry and also the ARC to keep sending the message across. It is our responsibility to raise awareness because we are privileged to receive an education abroad.”

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