September 14, 2010

How to help flood victims in Pakistan

Last month, the United Nations reported that 160,000 square kilometers of Pakistan were underwater. That is nearly one-fifth of the entire country – an area nearly as large as Florida or Wisconsin – and the flooding continues.

Pakistani engineers are volunteering to relieve victims of the monsoon floods. Professional and student engineering organizations have donated food, water, tents and medical supplies, and are seeking donations to continue their work.

The Pakistan section of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers delivered food and medical supplies during Ramadan, the Islamic holy month (while still observing daily fasts, they pointed out). Now, after Eid ul-Fitr, the celebration last weekend that marked the close of Ramadan, volunteers plan to distribute gifts to spread holiday cheer to flood victims. At the same time, engineers across the country are looking for housing solutions for the millions of newly homeless.

Biggest disaster of the decade

The flooding that began in late July is a “slow-motion tsunami,” UN Secretary General Ban Khi Mun said in remarks to the UN General Assembly Aug. 19. More than 20 million people need food, water, shelter and emergency care, the UN reports. That’s more than the number of people affected by the tsunami in the Indian Ocean and the earthquake in Haiti combined. Monetary donations have not met the country’s needs so far.

“There have been great contributions from the whole nation,” Usman Bin Younos, chair of ASME’s Pakistan section told Engineering for Change in an email. The organization collected more than 2 million Pakistan rupees – $23,375 – from student organizations and other Pakistanis. “Still, it is not much at all for the rescue and relief efforts,” he said.

Though speaking about aid on a much larger scale, the UN said the same: Donations fall far short of needs.

Personal report: “The conditions are drastic”

One engineering student working in flooded communities sent a personal report that Bin Younos forwarded to E4C. “I personally have visited a small town near Sukhur today with some of my university mates; the conditions there are drastic,” wrote Syed Faizan Ahmad, president of the ASME student section at NED University of Engineering and Technology in Karachi, Pakistan.

“The victims need every thing there from shelter to food,” Ahmad continued. “The roadways are badly damaged. We have reached there by bearing many hardships.” Besides making deliveries and working outside of their community, NED students have set up a relief camp on campus, he wrote.

What E4C can do

Relief workers need money and ideas. Engineering for Change can help by donating to Pakistani relief agencies. Bin Younos is also raising money now to resettle 100 families.

Besides money, Pakistan’s engineers also need information. “Help us in proposing designs that are cost-effective and quick-to-build,” Bin Younos said. Pakistan is hot and humid with short winters, he reminds prospective brainstormers. Also, clean water is in short supply, and relief workers could use ideas for providing as much as possible, Bin Younos added. We invite you to post your ideas here or on our Facebook page.

Where to donate

Bin Younos recommended a handful of charitable organizations that he said are exemplary for their service and efficiency in Pakistan. These complement E4C’s previously posted list of places to donate. They include:

Project Topi, a service organization for students of the Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology

The Imran Khan Foundation

The Edhi Foundation

Also, please consider these other organizations working in Pakistan:

UNHCR, for online donations. In the United States, text the word “SWAT” to the number 50555 to donate $10 to UNHCR

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Save the Children‘s Pakistan emergency fund



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