People of Pakistan and the Diaspora will mark Eid Al Fitr this year on a sombre note, although they would observe the religious aspect of the event.
With more than 16 million people displaced and hundreds of lives lost by the recent floods in the North-Western part of Pakistan (especially in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region), there is little joy left in the minds and hearts of people to celebrate one of the most important festivals of Islam.
Thousands of people in New Zealand have expressed their sympathy and sorrow and extended financial and material assistance to the Government of Pakistan and aid agencies that are involved in relief work.
Media reports and images portrayed a dim picture of the country and its people, who are yet to come to terms with reality. Destruction to infrastructure and private property has also been extensive, posing a major challenge to the authorities to bring Pakistan to normalcy as soon as possible.
Pakistanis are known for their hard work and diligence and have, over the years, been subject to political instability and terrorist attacks. However, they have shown remarkable resilience and the will to combat such forces and carry on with their lives.
This is the time to show solidarity and spirit of oneness and offer our best to the suffering people in Pakistan.
Apart from cash, usable materials are urgently required.
A number of agencies and organisations have appealed for public support and help.
The Pakistan High Commission in Wellington has established the Prime Minister’s ‘Flood Relief Fund’ to mobilise financial resources that are needed to offer relief to those victimised by the recent floods in Pakistan.
High Commissioner Syed Ibne Abbas said the natural disaster was unprecedented and that his Government was taking all steps to ensure that the suffering people receive adequate support during this ‘grave time of difficulty.’
He told a gathering of the members of the Pakistan community in Auckland and other invited guests at the Pakistan Independence Day celebrations that help was needed urgently to carry out relief work.
He said his Government was grateful to the New Zealand Government, which had provided $2 million in aid.
“The New Zealand Government was among the first to respond to this calamity of phenomenal proportions and sensing the unfolding scale of havoc, it doubled the aid to $4 million recently,” he said.
According to Mr Abbas, several leading international relief agencies including the International Red Cross, World Vision, UNICEF, Save the Children and Oxfam are also engaged in collecting donations and channelling them to the flood-affected people.
Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the floods were the worst in living memory.
“It is important that New Zealand supports international efforts to provide emergency shelter, drinking water, food and medical supplies. It is also important that agencies move quickly to avoid further loss of life from disease,” he said.
Labour MP and the Party’s Associate Ethnic Affairs Spokesman Dr Ashraf Choudhary backed the appeal, describing the tragedy as a ‘catastrophe.’
“I appeal to New Zealanders to offer timely help,” he said.
His article on the subject appears elsewhere in this Special Report.
Money can be remitted to the ANZ account of ‘Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund 2010’ (Number 01-0519-0170268-00) at any branch of the Bank in New Zealand.
The Pakistan Association of New Zealand has issued a similar appeal.
“We appeal for help by advertising, donating or fundraising to alleviate the suffering of our people in Pakistan,” a notification said.
The Association has opened the Pakistan Flood Relief Account at Westpac Bank (Account Number 03-0179-0360734-00) and has requested donors to offer donations to the best of their ability. Further details can be obtained on 021-0592688.
New Zealand Red Cross International Operations Manager Andrew McKie said his organisation would support the relief efforts.
“Funds will help the Pakistan Red Crescent Society branches and volunteers to deliver food, health services, tents, tarpaulins, water and relief items including hygiene kits and cooking equipment,” he said.
Mr McKie announced that the New Zealand Red Cross International had contributed $13,000, which would help about 25,000 families for nine months.
“Many areas are still cut off by flooded roads and collapsed bridges, hampering relief efforts. Many families have been forced from their homes and have been left with no means of support. They are living in miserable conditions. This appeal will help the Red Cross deliver more food, water and shelter materials,” he said.
He said two New Zealand aid workers were working in a Red Cross Hospital in Peshawar, treating war-wounded people.
“All monies donated to the Pakistan floods through New Zealand Red Cross will go to the international emergency appeal. We urge supporters to donate cash, not goods, so that the right relief items can be sent to people in need as quickly as possible,” he said.
Donations can be made online at www.redcross.org.nz or by phone 0800-733276.
Photo : Floods in Pakistan have left thousands homeless. Photo Courtesy: Oxfam International