Customising relief packages

August 24, 2010

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A series of eyewitness accounts from volunteers at relief camps across the country:

Pakistanis are known for their resilience.  Many young volunteers have risen and stepped out on the streets to collect donations and visit affected areas to provide relief. It’s heartening to witness the passion of these volunteers who have taken the risk to head out to affected areas without any expertise or experience. As part of the Future Leaders of Pakistan’s (FLP) flood relief efforts, I had a chance to be a part of a relief convoy this past weekend. FLP collaborated with the Rotary Club of Karachi to distribute relief packages in Thatta, Sujawal, and Sharif Solang in  Sindh.

Our day began with identifying affected areas to begin distribution. Sujawal situated in Thatta district was identified as the base camp for distribution of aid. According to the District Officers, Sujawal hosts over 27,500 internally displaced families. Living in abysmal conditions most of these people were living by the roadside on charpai and temporary tents made out of mere straw. The living conditions deteriorated as we traveled further into Sujawal. Roads had been inundated at various points and families were forced to take shelter in areas where there was no electricity.  Snakes, other insects and stray dogs were rampant and the families live under a high risk of being attacked by them.

Apart from basic relief items, care packages contained hygiene packets for women and care packets for infants, which were modified to cater to the needs of families present in the area, with special addition of mosquito-killing coils, anti-septic soaps, ORS, and porridge for infants. A basic survey was carried out to collect data and to facilitate a medical team scheduled to visit the area next week.

Volunteers with a background in health services also counseled women in the Sharif Solangi camp on a special diet plan for women who were pregnant or lactating. “We have been living in this camp for a month and no doctors have come our way, so we are glad we are getting some help. Yours is the first team to come here along with females to speak to us,” said one of the women at the Solangi camp to a female FLP volunteer.

My experience in Thatta has allowed me to organise better and customised relief packages for the upcoming trips to the region. The need to modify relief hampers to cater to the needs of people from different areas in extremely essential. For instance, in Sujawal, people lacked basic utensils which is why including cooked rotis would be a better option. Although the Solangi camp was better equipped than the rest, they were in dire need of food for infants.

Perhaps the best workable solution would be to collaborate with various organisations to identify individual camps that could be adopted to provide relief and rehabilitation as a long-term strategy. The only substantial solution will be to devise a strategy that ensures proper relief and medical aid with consistency being the key factor. Efforts like these prove that there is still hope for Pakistan. As people continue to fight and help each other in these tough times, one only hopes that the rest of the world will also donate generously to help the millions affected by the floods.

Sana Saleem is a Features Editor at BEE magazine and blogs at Global Voices,  Asian Correspondent and her personal blog Mystified Justice. She recently won the Best Activist Blogger award by CIO & Google at the Pakistan Blogger Awards. She can be found on Facebook and tweets at twitter.com/sanasaleem.

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