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Notes from the Field
Posted by: BARUME BISIMWA ZIBA at 3:19AM EST on March 22, 2013
Im BARUME BISIMWA ZIBA Secourist Red -Cross in Uvira south-kivu rep democratic of congo im looking for a jobs in rdcongo .contact mail email@example.com tel 243 971603199 243 853195164 . fanks for your helping job .
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:30AM EST on May 18, 2012
"You cannot do it."
"Security is not for girls; go and find yourself some office job."
"Can you even spell security?"
"Oh; you wish to be a security manager; really?"
"Why don't you meet me over dinner and we will see what we can do."
"Thank you for your interest but we would rather hire a man."
All of the above statements actually happened when I tried to apply for a job in the men-dominated field of security. And I accepted to get discouraged but only for a little time or a maximum of a few days. Like the phoenix, I rose from these encounters with an even stronger will and firmer resolve to work in the security field. There was no reason not to believe that I couldn't do it and hence, I finally got the break with the International Organization for Migration when I was hired as Security Officer. Since then, I actually haven't looked back. Though, there does pop up a little desire occasionally to go to these six different people who said what they said and tell them: "Look, I made it".
I knew a job in security is tough, very tough. I also knew it would be demanding and meant to serve in inhospitable environments. But I persisted believing in the strength of human resolve, honestly. I am aware of the many odds that human beings have surmounted in the past and as the saying goes: "A dream of yesterday is a reality today." I couldn't put it any better than that.
My resolve to be among the best in the security industry is unflinching and I would always be looking forward to add value both in my professional dispensation and personal development. CARE is a non-political non-sectarian humanitarian organization and all that matters to us is improving lives of poor people, assisting them to overcome poverty. Today, humanitarian agencies such as CARE have to deal with emerging threats while doing their work. We can be targeted simply because of who we are and what we are perceived to represent
And a security officer has to be on her toes to always be a step ahead than those who wish us damage. Not many may know it but it is a perpetual struggle to keep our staff, our projects and premise protected. It also looks adventurous from the outset; but I as a security officer have learnt NOT to be adventurous. This, to me, is the basic definition and requirement to be in security business. Being brave does mean respecting security and safety rules.
I am grateful that CARE practices what their belief is: Gender Equality. I will, and am all geared up to, prove that CARE's decision to hire me was the right one. A woman can be as good as a man in security.
Today, as a CAS, a Certified Anti Terrorism Specialist, I stand with courage and strength and face whatever comes my way. I am a woman. But I am no less than anyone else. Period!
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 12:27PM EST on October 20, 2011
Doctors provide medical support, but more assistance is urgently needed
By Mujahid Hussain, Team Leader Lower Sindh, CARE International Pakistan
The monsoon floods of August 2011 have displaced millions of people from their modest huts in the areas of lower Sindh province. After almost three months stranded under open sky, many are still waiting for proper temporary shelter, water, sanitation and healthcare support. The most vulnerable are women and children, who are fighting unprotected from the health risks of exposure to hot sun during the day and mosquitoes at night.
CARE and its partners' health teams are providing primary healthcare and hygiene awareness education to some of the most severely affected people in the remote areas of district Mirpur Khas. This week the team visited a health camp organized by our partner at village Mahar Mohammad Buttar, UC Burghari. We travelled about two hours from Mirpur Khas city by road to reach the village. The road condition was very poor and in some areas it is surrounded by water. The level of water is now receding and some people have started to return to what is left of their nearby homes.
On the way to the camp village we stopped to ask questions in a local community. "We are happy to be going back to the debris of our home instead of sitting in camps on the roads and waiting for relief. We try to survive with our own saved resources," said 55 year old Mero of village Goth Mitha Baluch.
We reached a village where a health camp had been set up by CARE local partner Takhleeq Foundation. The camp was well organized, with separate facilities for men and women, and with the active involvement of local elders. Over 350 local people were gathered, including men, women and children, waiting for medical officers' consultation and medications. Four medical officers (two male and two female) were fully engaged in consultations. In the waiting room staff were leading hygiene awareness sessions, focusing on how to ensure clean water and do hand washing.
One of the female medical officers is 23-year-old Dr. Tabinda, who has been providing healthcare services in flood-affected areas for the last 15 days. Asked about her motivation, she said: "I am very happy to provide health services to these people. They are deprived, they are poor, and the way they are being neglected is inhuman. This village has a population of 20,000, and they have no health unit available for healthcare." She said she and her colleagues were travelling three to four hours on daily basis to access these remote areas. Yesterday the team had to go on foot for half an hour to conduct camp at another village. "Our motivation is high to serve these needy people, and I am sure to get their prayers." She pointed out one lactating woman sitting with her for treatment and said, "This woman is seven months pregnant. She is weak, malnourished and shelters-less. She has had severe pain for last seven days, but her family could not afford to bring her to a checkup at Mirpur Khas city."
Shewa, a 70-year old man, was suffering from fever and being treated by a male medical officer. "We are 16 in my family," he explained: "Five daughters, three sons, six grandsons, my wife and myself, all living in a hut with a cover made of plastic and our clothes. We lost all our standing crops -- cotton, vegetables, rice in the field and now we are looking for food and water to survive. All our family members are ill, and have come to this camp for treatment. This medical support is blessing on us. My young grandson Rehman is studying in class 3 and he is suffering from malaria fever and not attending school. If I could get some cash support in future, I will buy some livestock, foods, and construct a new hut for living."
I have experience working in some major disasters in Pakistan such as the disastrous earthquake in Pakistan in 2005 and the floods last year and I know that every disaster victim has different suffering and feelings of hope. But responding to the floods this year in lower Sindh, I witness that people are hopeless and frustrated after waiting for three months to get support. Many of these people will die from malnutrition and water borne diseases if a response cannot be expedited. CARE and other organizations urgently need more funding to support people in need.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:39AM EST on October 14, 2011
Sardar Rohail Khan
Security Operations Assistant, CARE Pakistan
An audio version of this blog is available here.
My friends say I can appear expressionless, even cold at times. It's an occupational hazard of security training, where we learn not to show too much emotion on the job. But one glance from a small village girl, and I was lost. As her eyes pinned me, sparking fiercely with anxiety, I found myself wondering almost aloud: What are we doing here? How can any amount of humanitarian aid make a difference in this poor girl's life?
As we respond to the Pakistan floods of 2011, it's impossible not to reflect on the tireless efforts of my colleagues and our partners to aid survivors of the catastrophic flood which struck just last year. Like the mud when the waters receded, memories clog the hearts of those who are rebuilding their lives, and those who went to help. The second flood has now hit harder, like a terrible flashback.
When my boss called to say that I had to travel to south Punjab to support the field work, I had mixed feelings. I didn't want to be away from my fiancée. I had no idea that nature was about to hit me with a different kind of flood, or that I wouldn't be able to work or sleep until I responded to the emotions that came rushing in with it.
On the road, we passed lush green fields which every year produce the best mangoes in the world. After two hours of bumpy driving off the main highway, we reached a village that been devastated by the rains. It was scorching hot, 47 degrees. As I sweated outside a small one-room school building, watchful for security problems, I kept soaking myself with cold water from a tube well, to the amusement of kids playing nearby.
Inside, the makeshift classroom was crammed with children of all ages, and some adults curious about our team's arrival. As I scanned the room, my eyes caught those of a small girl. She was staring at me, reciting her lessons while looking uneasily at the guests, intruders in her world. While she clenched a small book with her mouth, biting it, her brother sitting next to her would poke and tease her, over and over again -- and she would not say a word, even though it was clearly testing her patience. With the permission of her parents standing nearby, I snapped a photo. She continued to stare, without speaking. She wore a ragged shalwar kameez, the local dress, and her hair was matted, but she would fix her veil often, with the dignity of a princess.
Her parents were Pakhtuns, but could speak some Urdu. When I commended them for educating their children, they laughed, and replied that they sent their children to "this place" to keep them out of the way When I asked why not let them stay and learn, to benefit the whole family, they said the girl would be married as soon as she turned 14. I persisted in my argument that both children needed education, as it would elevate them. They almost seemed convinced, but explained that they couldn't go against local traditions. They had already given their word on the marriage to a family in a nearby village.
The gaze of the small girl pierced me, as I struggled with the realization that what little knowledge she might acquire through this program could only raise her hopes -- for a life she would not be allowed to live. Education could give her the vision to bring her family out of poverty, but not without a whole new way of thinking in her village.
Sitting on the cement floor, clutching an English book she could not read, she seemed to plead with her eyes: "Help me find the courage and the strength that I need." And while I ruminated on what we could and could not change in her world, this little girl changed mine. She had the power to change my life, simply by letting me peer for a moment into hers. Without speaking a word, she somehow helped me understand that I needed first to stop thinking I had all the answers. Instead, I would begin to ask myself bigger questions: "With my knowledge, my happiness, what can I share? How can I make a difference?"
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:31AM EST on September 21, 2011
Deputy Safety and Security Manager,
"If you want something important done, don't do it on Christmas Day – everyone will be away," I remember my buddy joking, while we were bouncing around inside a Series 3 Land Rover on a security training exercise in New Zealand some time ago. Flash forward to Pakistan in August 2011: I am driving with our CARE team leader, Karuna, in a Toyota 4x4 on a field assessment in central Sindh. It is Eid, a major holiday, the end of the Ramadan. All our staff, including the drivers, have gone to their home villages to be with their families, and the country is on standstill observing national celebrations after a month of fasting for Ramadan. The heavy monsoon rainfall and rising waters have us a little on edge. We have no idea that our response will be one of the first by an NGO - right at the heart of another emergency.
As the rain continued non-stop for almost 2 full days, Karuna would suggest areas he was interested in visiting, and we would dart around the region, hoping for access and a return route on roads that were at risk of closing. We monitored the river and swelling canals, inspecting for damage and trouble spots. I was liaising frantically back with our country office via Blackberry, snapping shots between wiper blade strokes and potholes, and taking notes in my little note-book. From time to time we would stop to stretch our legs and reflect on the disaster unfolding before our eyes.
The roads around Dadu were eerily quiet, with no sign of the infamous chaotic traffic, only the drumming of persistent rain pelting the roads. By parking next to the door of our staff house in town, we could climb into the car to avoid wading through over a foot of water mixed with garbage and stinking sewage. In rural areas, we saw mud houses melting away like chocolate ice-cream.
When the rain stopped, we knew that a new deluge of work was coming our way. CARE staff and our local partners were headed back to the field office. They would need an immediate and accurate account of the situation. Media paints one story, helicopter rides another – but "eyes on the ground" can't be beat. We were there on the ground. Within days, after only a small break in the weather, Southern Sindh was hit much harder. Roadsides and school grounds became crowded with families who had lost their homes. Our nearby warehouse was packed with emergency stocks ready for distribution: tarpaulins for temporary shelter, mats, shawls, cooking utensils, hygiene sets with antibacterial soap, tanks for safe water storage. Our holiday would have to wait.
Sindh province, southern Pakistan. Just one year after an unprecedented flood affected 20 million people, new flooding is threatening lives and livelihoods in Pakistan. Sindh, a province in the south of the country, is the worst affected. Nearly one million houses have been damaged, thousands of livestock have been lost and more than five million people are struggling to rescue their livelihoods.
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 12:43PM EST on September 9, 2010
by Deborah Underdown, CARE media specialist in Pakistan
As I left Islamabad for Swat I can't deny that I wasn't a little apprehensive. Most people have only heard about this region because of conflict and Swat's association with militant groups.
Swat has been hit hard by the floods with some people – a month after the rains – having still received nothing. Many roads and bridges have been destroyed making areas, and the people that live there, unreachable.
CARE, through our partner organization IDEA, is targeting the families who have yet to receive help. Families were identified last week and given a token and informed of the time and place they could collect essential goods such as soap, towels, pots and pans and a tent.
Today, I saw these people receive their goods. Arz, 60, said, "I walked for three hours to get here. I am happy to receive these goods. This is the first time we have had anything since the floods."
I am struck by the organization of the distribution – no one is fighting or pushing. People are calmly waiting in line to receive these precious goods and then sit, with what looks like relief, before picking up the goods and starting the long journey home.
CARE is also providing people with 2000 rupees to help them transport their goods home; the methods of transport include donkeys and mules. Arz told me that he is going to use the money for something else, "I am going to use the money that was given for the transport on new clothes for my children." He'll walk the return journey that will take 4-5 hours as he will be carrying a heavy load.
As we literally reach the end of the road, a huge chunk of it was washed away. But I am struck but the sheer determination of the people here. A zip wire has been strung across the vast Indus River and people and their goods are able to get from one side to the other. I look at people going across and at how high up they are, sitting in a small metal cage, and think how brave they are – it then hits me that they have no other choice.
Arz, 60, said, "I walked for three hours to get here. I am happy to receive these goods. This is the first time we have had anything since the floods."
A zip wire strung across the vast Indus River carries people from one side to the other.
Photos: 2010 Deborah Underdown/CARE
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 1:31PM EST on August 30, 2010
by Jonathan Mitchell, CARE International's emergency response director
This blog entry is part of an e-mail that Jonathan sent to co-workers at CARE:
I have just returned from Pakistan, where I saw the flood situation and CARE's response first-hand, and worked with the country office and CARE USA's Asia regional director, Nick Osborne, to support scaling-up CARE's response.
As you will know, the devastation caused by the floods in Pakistan is unprecedented with an estimated 17 million people affected - stretching from the Himalayas in the North to the Arabian Sea in the South of the country. An estimated 1.2 million people have lost their homes and 3.4 million are displaced.
Together with CARE's country director Waleed Rauf, regional director Nick Osborne, other colleagues from CARE Pakistan and one of our local partners, we visited affected areas in Swat and Nowshera districts in Northwest Pakistan – one of the first areas hit by the floods four weeks ago.
In the Swat valley, the swollen river had cut huge swathes out of the river banks, destroying many homes, businesses, roads, bridges and other infrastructure, as well as agricultural land. Displaced people are mainly staying in school buildings or with host families. One of the main problems for aid delivery in areas like this is lack of access due to roads being cut. To get up the Swat valley, we had to leave vehicles behind at several points where there were no roads and hike by foot across steep hillsides to the next intact section of road.
In Swat, CARE has supported our local partner to quickly set up mobile health units providing badly-needed primary health services to the communities. Each unit moves around to different sites and includes both a female and a male doctor. The urgent priority now is to find alternative ways to overcome the access difficulties so that CARE and our partners can deliver other relief supplies such as tents, household kits, and materials for water and sanitation.
The situation in Nowshera district, which we also visited, is quite different. It is located south of Swat where the land opens into the plains. Here, the river flooded entire villages, washing away houses and livestock, and inundating agricultural land. Many displaced people are living in makeshift camps on higher ground close to their flooded or destroyed houses. CARE and our partners have set-up mobile health units here as well. In addition, CARE Pakistan quickly provided, through our partners, all of the tents and household kits that CARE Pakistan had stockpiled to people in Nowshera and another neighboring district. But this only met the immediate shelter needs of a small proportion of those needing help in these districts; CARE is working hard to procure the much larger quantities of supplies still needed. Three hundred additional tents were received from vendors last week, but with so much demand, all humanitarian agencies are experiencing serious delays getting enough supplies from vendors in Pakistan. Where appropriate, we are, therefore, looking at sourcing relief supplies from outside the country.
There are many other critical needs in the displaced people's camps as well. A camp that we visited had no water supply, toilets or other sanitation facilities. The situation for women, who have no access to private sanitation facilities, is particularly bad. CARE and our partners are focusing with urgency on the need to address the awful sanitation and water situation. Construction of toilets is starting, a shipment of water purification supplies has arrived, and two water purification plants are being set-up in Nowshera and the neighboring district.
The sanitation issues also illustrate why focusing on gender must be an important aspect of our response, and one that we need to address with sensitivity in the conservative social environment of many of the communities we are working in. The country office is hiring a full-time gender advisor to support our work in this area.
In addition to these districts in the northwest of Pakistan, CARE is also responding in South Punjab and Sindh Provinces further south.
During the visit, we worked with the country office to revise its emergency response strategy. The revised strategy plans for a scaled-up emergency response to reach 300,000 people in the three operational areas over an 18 month period. The response will be in two phases: the first relief phase will last up to nine months and will include interventions in health, shelter, non-food items and water/sanitation; the second recovery phase will overlap with the relief phase and will continue until around December 2011 and will include interventions in livelihood recovery, transitional shelter, etc.
I would like to sincerely appreciate the hard work of colleagues in CARE and our partners in Pakistan, under the strong leadership of country director, Waleed Rauf, who are doing so much to respond to this humanitarian crisis. The great support of many CARE International members is also most valued, and we look forward to continuing to work together with all involved to ensure that CARE's response to this crisis provides significant assistance to the people of Pakistan affected by these devastating floods.
2010 Waleed Rauf/CARE
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 4:09PM EST on August 26, 2010
by Deborah Underdown, CARE media specialist in Pakistan
The word flood has taken on a new meaning for me. Last month, a flood was a burst water pipe in my flat in London, a few ruined carpets and the inconvenience of sleeping in my lounge. Today, a flood means your entire home being submerged with water. A flood is all your possessions being washed away. A flood is something that forces you to live in a tent wondering where fresh water and food will come from.
Nowshera is about an hour and a half drive from Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. When I arrived I was shocked to see the floods waters hadn't receded. On my left were the submerged houses and on the right, overlooking what used to be their homes, were families living in tents.
I met Khayal Marjan. She smiled at me from inside her tent, provide by CARE, and spoke to me about the floods.
"Our sewing machine was damaged in the flood – it was our only source of income," she said. "I also had 40 chickens and some goats and cows; they all drowned. We only had time to save ourselves."
Approximately 400 families are living in tents provided by CARE – a shelter from the monsoon rains that continue to fall. The needs of the families in these camps are numerous, ranging from shelter to medical care and food to clean water. CARE continues to help. There is a mobile health clinic treating skin diseases and the growing number of diarrhea cases.
The scale of this disaster is overwhelming and unimaginable. Nowshera is just one area of Pakistan affected by these floods. There are many other cities, towns and villages in the same situation - all needing more support.
Flood waters are still present on Nowshera, where some people told us that their homes are still submerged in 4 feet of water.
Children in Nowshera wade through flood water to salvage what they can from their homes.
A camp set up by CARE and local partner IDEA in the village of Nowshera.
Photos: 2010 Deborah Underdown/CARE
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 3:55PM EST on August 26, 2010
By Faiz Paracha
It was my first day working with CARE, and I visited one of the worst affected areas of Khyber-Pakhtoon-Khaw, Nowshera and Charsada. Both districts have been devastated severely by the flood. Traveling along the Motorway M-1, you cannot realize the wreckage that the torrential flood water has caused.
When we left the M-1 through the Nowshera interchange, I was shocked to see the destruction caused by the flood. The river Kabul flows side-by-side to the road to Nowshera, and there are a lot of villages constructed sporadically alongside the banks of the river. This has affected people living in those villages tremendously.
We stopped at a village called Zareenabad.
The local people told us that the flood water came in a two-meter-high wave. All of it was so sudden that they had no time to gather their valuables – but could only run for their lives. Many of them got swept away by the water and others are still missing, heir families believing them to be dead.
The water has taken away their belongings and their houses. Many houses collapsed when the flood wave came and the rest broke down due to standing water. Their entire household lost in water. People remained under the open sky with nothing – until CARE reached them. CARE was the first organization to provide them with shelter.
CARE has established a camp with our local partner IDEA for the affected people of this village. This camp is accommodating some 400 families. The camp has been provided with tents, non-food items, kitchen utensils and hygiene kits. Drinking water tanks are provided twice a day.
People here need more help. The damage that we see now is only the beginning. The basic source of livelihood in this region was agriculture, daily wage labor or cattle farming. All have been engulfed by water. New homes will be needed to be built for them. Funds will be needed to help rebuild their livelihoods so that they can make it on their own. People, especially children, will require psychosocial support.
It is vital that the pledges by international donors materialize. Concrete and fulfilling promises regarding aid are needed so that the people of Pakistan are saved from their worst humanitarian crisis.
CARE and partner organization IDEA has provided tents to around 400 families in Nowshera.
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 12:29PM EST on August 19, 2010
CARE Media Specialist in Pakistan Thomas Schwarz interviews CARE Pakistan's Country Director Waleed Rauf
August 17, 2010
Q. After more than two weeks, how would you describe the situation in Pakistan as of today?
A. It still raining and we are in the midst of the second phase of the monsoon – and there are always three phases. The overall situation is worsening, and the United Nations meanwhile spoke about up to 3.5 million children in danger of waterborne disease.
Q. That sounds as if the aid agencies are not able to help?
A. CARE and other aid agencies are working up to their limits. Even now during the fasting Ramadan period, they are working around the clock. Together, with our partners in the northwest of the country as well as in the south, we are contributing to the people.
Q. What is it exactly, what CARE is doing? What kind of support are you providing?
A. There are different regions of Pakistan we work in. CARE is supporting mobile health units through our partners in Khyber Pakshtoon Kwa (KPK) and Sindh Provinces. We are providing access to basic medicines and first aid care. We emptied all of our warehouses immediately after the floods started. They were the stocks CARE maintains for emergencies such as this one. These included stocks of basic items such as tents, clothing, kitchen sets and hygiene kits, which as of today, have all been distributed in the worst-affected areas of Nowshera and Charsadda. More will be distributed in Punjab and Sindh as soon as possible.
Q. Many people have fears that the aid do not reach the victims but instead go to hidden channels. What is your opinion on that?
A. Well, the challenges here are enormous but aid is getting through to those who need it. I can assure each and every donor who is ready to support CARE. Our long experience in the field and the passion of our partners on the ground guarantee this, and we have rigorous systems in place to ensure that aid goes directly to the people in need. Undoubtedly, there is much more to do and international organizations, including CARE, are committed to doing so. Even through the fasting month of Ramadan, our colleagues continue to work around the clock to ensure aid reaches those in need.
Q. So, what is needed most? What is the priority number one?
A. There are three priorities – all at the same time because they are interdependent. As we see the rising numbers of hungry flood survivors, food is an urgent need. Hygiene is a priority, too. Stagnant water in 100-plus degree heat and humidity provides the perfect breeding ground for waterborne diseases so health is a major issue. Children and women especially are threatened here. The United Nations announced this week that as many as 3.5 million children are at risk of disease. The third priority is shelter. Many of the tents sent to Haiti after the earthquake came from Pakistan suppliers, and stocks here in Pakistan are not yet back up to the needed levels.
Q. What is your overall expectation about the next two to three weeks?
A. If we – and I am not only talking about CARE – receive sufficient funding and donations, Pakistan could respond much more quickly. We could do much more, broaden our response, reach more people more quickly. If not, I would not want to guess what could happen to the millions of survivors who haven't yet received any assistance and are struggling alone.
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 4:42PM EST on August 17, 2010
Thomas Schwarz, CARE media specialist in Pakistan
The Taliban helps flood victims and then publicly praises its own work. This is what I read in the news. In interviews, journalists ask if it is true, and I say yes. Of course they publicize their good works. Everybody who does good deeds for others publicizes it. But, is this the question we should be asking right now? Not for me.
This debate about the Taliban has nothing to with the reality we face here everyday across the country. The debate is a Western obsession, not one of the flood-affected people in need.
Frankly, I barely understand the connection between the topic and the biggest natural disaster of our time. We should be focusing our attention on how we can provide immediate relief efficiently and effectively to those in need.
I witnessed in Moltan just how CARE is supporting mobile health clinics so that primary health care is accessible to those who need it.
The temperature here is a humid 104 degrees, and flies are everywhere. A man shoos them away. Flood survivors queue patiently for their turn to registrater and receive medical assistance. The process is quick and efficient, and the people here are directly benefiting from this intervention because of generous donations to CARE.
Moltan lies to the south of Punjab Province, where new floods are predicted as monsoon rains continue.
CARE's warehouses here are all now empty and, as more donations come in, we are procuring more supplies to distribute to those in need. Since the floods began we have distributed tents, hygiene kits, mosquito nets and kitchen sets. It is not true that humanitarian assistance is not reaching those in need. It is – but simply not enough!
Along the main, four-lane road out of Moltan, we see tents, one after another like a string of pearls. Tents? That's an exaggeration. They are really just plastic sheets held up by wooden poles. The fronts and backs remain open, offering no privacy for those who seek shelter. But they at least provide some protection from the fierce sun.
A 70-year-old man sits alone, staring into space. Around him children sit likewise.
When we arrive, we are surrounded by people immediately. Everybody wants to say something. They all say the same thing, "We have no tents. Look!" They point to a village, less than 200 meters away. It is completely flooded – all we see are roofs. We know that these people will not be able to return to their village as long as the rains continue and the stagnant water refuses to recede.
We are relieved to hear that the villagers are receiving food. When we ask from whom, and they reply, "People from Moltan are coming every day to deliver food.” The people from Molten are strangers, but the villagers know they can rely on them.
Today, as the holy fasting month of Ramadan has now started, the strangers arrive in the evening after sunset. Tomorrow, Pakistan celebrates its independence from the British empire. People help people in Pakistan. This is the true Pakistan I know and appreciate.
By the way, Zahid, the sick little boy I met in Charsadda, is back home and playing again! My colleague, Mujahid, just sent me an e-mail to let me know.
Another question often asked by journalists comes to mind: “Does the help reach people?” Yes, it does.
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 4:10PM EST on August 17, 2010
Thomas Schwarz, CARE Media Specialist in Pakistan
When we started out early this morning from Islamabad, I didn't exactly know what would be awaiting me in the region of Mardan. I had seen many reports on TV, read the papers, listened to the radio and spoken with my CARE colleagues. The whole weekend, I spent meeting with United Nations representatives as well as other international humanitarian organizations.
We drove the motorway No. 1, direction northwest. This highway is cut into three pieces, almost through half of the whole country, from Lahore in the South to Karachi in the northwest. On both sides there are fields and women and men alike are working them. Everything seems to be okay at first – at least it looks like it's okay. No flooding, no water, not even rain.
Then, after about 50 kilometers, we saw the Indus River. Aggressive, powerful, and threatening. It has doubled in size. We cross it, over a long bridge, and all of a sudden it disappeared, as if it were trying to hide from us, in the fog. But there it is, the monster that has claimed lives and stolen everything from millions of flood victims. And, as always, it was taken from the poorest and most vulnerable.
The water has stolen everything
After the bridge and the fog, maybe 60 to 70 kilometers later, we see tents, again and again. They stood in fields, along the highway. People put them anywhere they found a space without water. There they live now, those who have lost their homes and almost lost their lives. After another 30 kilometers, we arrive in a town where 26,000 people live in normal times.
There, we meet Nambarj. She's 65 years old and a widow. "See here, this house. It disappeared," she says. "It is simply not there anymore."
When the flood came, the water jumped more than two meters above the wall of the courtyard. What is left? "Look there," she says. She shows the old kitchen, where she used to have all her kitchen utensils. "There, this is everything I have now. Two small machines. Everything else, the water has stolen from me."
CARE has provided her with a tent. We promise to bring the woman kitchen utensils within a few days. When one has lost everything, even small things can make a really big difference.
Terrible pictures, unbelievable poverty
In this area, CARE is cooperating with local partners. Imran Inan of the Community Research and Development Organisation, or CRDO, is a person who deserves my deepest respect. The way he accompanies me and translates impresses me. He has a word for each and every remark of the survivors. His patience and humble work is really something I admire. CRDO is just one of several partner organizations of CARE in Pakistan.
I have an idea about poverty. I have seen it in many different countries; it is a reality. What I have seen now, though, leaves me stunned. Not only the situation of the widow, but also the one of the old man, who tells us simply: "I don't even have shoes anymore." He lives with his children and grandchildren in a tent next to his son's house, which is still standing. Imran is listening carefully. "He will get them tomorrow," he says. "We just received shoes. He will get them tomorrow. Promised."
The people in the northwestern part of Pakistan are poor, even poorer than many in other parts of Pakistan.
Is there a boy like Zahid in rich countries, too?
But it is the small boy laying on the wet, muddy floor of his family's small, simple house that shocks me. Zahid is only four years old. His coughing and a high fever has exhausted him so much that he is sleeping, his chest is slowly going up and down. It is 3:30 in the afternoon. The mother cries, when she sees not only me, but also the others coming to her house. It is empty aside from Zahid laying on the floor.
The mother does not have enough money for the transportation to the hospital or for the medication he urgently needs. Someone gives her some money for the transport. "Do you know, Thomas," my CARE colleague, Mujahid, says, "there are many cases like this one in this region. We will find a solution."
I find it profoundly shaming, how we – the rich countries – are coping with one of the biggest natural disasters in decades. At the same time I try not to become unjust. Also in our countries are poor people, of course. There is poverty, yes. But I wonder, if there is a boy like Zahid in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France or Germany. I am not sure.
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 3:49PM EST on August 17, 2010
Thomas Schwarz, CARE media specialist in Pakistan
This week is a very special one in the flooded nation that is Pakistan. August 14 is the national Day of Independence. On August 14, 1947, the British colonial rulers granted independence to their former colony. At the same time as India, by the way. On top of the national Day of Independence, Pakistan's majority Muslim population will also begin the holy month of Ramadan this week, which includes praying and fasting.
Mmedia reports are full of pictures showing people who are fasting, yet have nothing to eat. Thousands of hectares of agricultural land are completely flooded. If nothing is done, this will mean widespread hunger. Even Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani spoke on Sunday about a "second monsoon" that is likely to hit the south, the breadbasket of the country, soon. This country knows the meaning of hunger – and a large number of people are frightened of it.
Too many of the 180 million inhabitants of Pakistan have virtually lost everything. The country is already one of the poorest in the world. And what is more, Pakistan mainly gets attention when there is talk of terrorism. Positive news from this region is rare, although we do encounter good news here every day.
We meet neighbors helping neighbors, and people whose houses are not destroyed helping those who lost their homes. We see college students walking through the city of Islamabad raising funds for the victims.
"We know that it will not be more than a small sum," says one of them, pointing at the cardboard box with the money he collected. "But we do this on our own initiative instead of waiting for help to come from outside."
Every day shows clearly that this help is urgently needed. But relief work is difficult.
CARE's partner organizations have delivered medication and medical supplies to pregnant women, who could not make it to the hospital for childbirth. The women were reached with the aid of donkeys and mules because so bridges and streets remain impassable.
Plates, forks, cutlery – nothing left
There are some distributions of kitchen supplies, bandages and other relief items. Nothing is left of the house that has been swept away by the floods. But at least the people have some relief now. And tents, the affected families also need tents. It does not stop raining.
CARE focuses its work on women and children. About a dozen CARE trucks are transporting doctors and other aid workers to the affected areas. They treat those that are most in need, and they try to get an overview of the needs in order to plan their work.
Today, Zahid from CARE Pakistan and I will drive up to Mardan in the northwestern part of the country. During the next couple of days, he will plan and coordinate CARE's relief operation for the area. I will get a firsthand look in order to report back to my colleagues and the world. I need to see things with my own eyes. Images on TV and the reports we hear reports cannot accurately reflect the immense suffering.
I know I am repeating myself, but I have to say it repeatedly: what is missing still, and foremost, is money. It is that simple. If humanitarian organizations like CARE do not get enough funding, there will be too little help. I cannot bear the thought that the fate of 12 million people is being ignored by the world simply because they are living in Pakistan.
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 3:02PM EST on August 17, 2010
by Thomas Schwarz, CARE media specialist in Pakistan
August 7, 2010
On a cable TV network I can watch the recorded World Cup match between Germany and Uruguay. Football. It's a draw right now. I switch to DAWN-TV, a Pakistani TV channel: Two anchormen talking about food support activities in their mother tongue, Urdu.
I have just arrived in Islamabad, much later than expected. The airplane was not able to land in the capital of Pakistan due to bad weather conditions on the ground. We had to fly to Karachi, wait there for a couple of hours, then head back to Islamabad. Karachi is the biggest city in Pakistan and close to the estuary of the Indus River. Now the river is twice as broad as usual. With a population of almost 13 million people, Karachi is one of the biggest cities worldwide. It ranks third place in the list of the world’s biggest cities. I have only seen the airport building, of course. No clue where to find the famous stock exchange, which is also based in this big city. Finally, after five hours we can fly to Islamabad, where the CARE country office has its headquarters.Can anyone grasp the numbers?
The DAWN also has an English print version. The newspaper and its website deliver around-the-clock news about the situation in the flooded areas of the country. Reading the paper, I am reminded of last year in May when a huge number of people fled from violence in the Swat valley. At that time, just like today, the numbers of internally displaced people were rising by the hour. More than 12 million people are affected by this horrible flood. Can anyone really grasp this number?On my way from the international airport of Islamabad to the guest house, I receive numerous phone calls. I talk, or more precisely listen, to my CARE colleagues updating me with the latest information. Rising numbers. And a terrible lack of funding.
A colleague tells me that the website of the National Disaster Management Authority would be a good source. She was right. The authority is directly linked to the prime minister's office. On the website the government informs about the actions undertaken to help the flood victims. As a first step, bridges are provisionally repaired. It's a nightmare for all aid workers: the infrastructure is so heavily damaged that there are still people out there who have not been reached yet.
Far too little has been done so far, but ...
Meanwhile, CARE has supported thousands of people with tents, clothes, mosquito nets and other important emergency items. Eleven trucks were sent out to the affected areas. They are also transporting tablets to clean dirty water. Today, a radio reporter asked me, “Is that enough or is it just a drop in the ocean?“ No, of course it is not enough. Far too little has been done for the victims so far. But even this little bit means survival for many of them.
However, there is an immense lack of funding; many, many millions of dollars are needed to increase the speed and scale of the response. The rich states are still hesitant. That is a common assumption here in Pakistan, not just a gut feeling. Whoever sees and hears how desperate people in this area are simply cannot understand how slowly money is coming in.
Posted by: Jon Thompson at 10:21AM EST on August 10, 2010
By Mujahid Hussain, emergency program manager for CARE in Pakistan
August 6, 2010
Nowshera has been declared one of the calamity areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Entire villages and farms have been swept away. Homes have disappeared under flood waters and livestock have been left to rot in the mud.
CARE’s team has responded to the needs of the affected population through our local partners with basic non-food items to the locals, who were able to come to the accessible highland areas and roads. Through our partners and relief team's rapid assessment, surveys have been conducted to ascertain facts and figures about the damages and losses of the people in the area.
As the floods have caused extensive damage to crops, livestock and other food sources in the affected regions, food supply issues remain paramount. People are in desperate need of food and shelter and, as the days pass by, health issues are getting worse.
Here’s what we heard from some of the people:
Posted by: Jon Thompson at 10:19AM EST on August 10, 2010
By Umaz Jalal, security manager for CARE in Pakistan.
August 5, 2010
On the eve of August 4, I was tasked to deliver a convoy carrying relief goods to flood-affected areas of Pakistan. We started our journey for the distribution point at a little past 7:00 p.m.
As usual, we communicated the departure to the security unit and the field staff. The convoy traveled through the Grand Trunk Road as the motorway was badly damaged in the recent floods. When we reached Nowshera (in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan), we were told by the police that the Grand Trunk Road was also blocked by the floods and we had to take a detour to get to our final destination -- the city of Mardan.
Our convoy was going slowly when I could saw the reflection of water on both sides of the road. I asked if we were still crossing the Kabal River. To my shock, the driver told me, "It’s not the river; it’s the flood water that we are passing."
I remembered that there were lots of small towns on both sides of Grand Trunk Road, which use to be full of life even at night time.
While crossing a small village, which was badly affected by the rain and floods close to 3:00 a.m., no life was present as far as eye could see. Then, I saw a woman who was undergoing labor pains and in need of urgent medical help, being carried by a girl and old man towards the nearest hospital.
I asked the driver to stop the vehicle so I could ask the old man if he needed any help. He told me that they have been walking for two hours trying to take his daughter to the hospital in Mardan as the all medical facilities in Nowshera were damaged by the floods. We told them that we were headed to Marden, which was 17 Kilometers away, and would drop them at the hospital.
The condition of the woman looked serious, but she safely reached hospital and was provided medical care.
After that, our convoy reached Mardan and all of the relief goods we were carrying were distributed.
Posted by: Jon Thompson at 10:17AM EST on August 10, 2010
By Jamshed Naseer, security officer for CARE in Pakistan, who witnessed the devastation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
There are plans that we make, and there is God’s plan. The truth of this phrase has never hit me as hard as it did on July 28, 2010.
The day before started off like any other summer day. The sun was shining bright, and our enthusiastic team of five set off to visit Swat.
Swat was a hot spot for all tourists once upon a time, not long ago. I remember Swat, and the people of this beautiful valley, who offered a smile and warm welcome to anyone who came there. I knew how the smiles had been replaced by lines of worry due to the recent political situation these brave people had faced. People are still warm and welcoming, but the air of this place once known to be "heaven on earth" tells a tale of its own.
My team and I were following our trip schedule, meeting local authorities, going to a CARE project site , and discussing areas we needed to focus on for the trip. We all went to bed satisfied, our heads filled with plans for the next day. I remember falling asleep with the sound of the rain drop's pitter-patter echoing in my ears like a lullaby.
July 28, 2010. A date engraved in my memory for the years to come. It was 8:15 a.m. when Waleed, Mujahid and I were sitting in the lobby of the hotel, enjoying hot breakfast and admiring the rain, and how it made the valley look fresh and clean.
Despite the rain, we started our day's journey as planned, visiting a health project. Sitting comfortably in the front seat of our car with the air conditioner blasting, I could see people running around covering their heads with newspapers, shopping bags or their hands.
Some of the women were carrying their children and men were carrying household items -- I wondered, why are they out in the rain? The question came and left my mind fleetingly. Concentrate, my mind said, as I tried to focus on my duties for the day.
The rain was pouring, visibility was poor and our cars were crawling along the road, when we heard that the Gwaliari Bridge had collapsed. We went as near as we could to the bridge and assess the damage caused.
I stood there watching what the rain we were all praying for had done.
The sound of the water gushing, wood cracking, and amongst the havoc, people leaving everything that they had worked so hard for -- running, saving their very lives. The people on the road came back to my mind. I saw, how the fathers were trying to keep their young ones safe, hauling them on the shoulders, how mothers, not caring for their own security, were protecting their children. I saw a landslide wipe away homes and bury them in mud.
The water, not caring who and what it took with its force, pushed on.
The road was cracking and giving way to the force of the water. I moved my team to safety. Everyone was busy getting information, planning what to next.
With every second that passed by, I felt worse. Here we were, safe and warm, with a roof over our head, food in our stomachs, a soft bed to sleep on. The sound of the rain that was lullaby to my ears yesterday seemed to turn into cry for help. I felt responsible for the rain that we had all been praying for.
I tossed and turned in my bed at night and I asked myself over and over again, “Is this what we prayed for?”
Posted by: CARE at 5:09PM EST on July 9, 2009
by Rick Perera, Media & Communications Officer
Farewell, Pakistan. My month among these kind, hospitable people is coming to an end. As I leave this country that is struggling with a massive wave of civilians fleeing conflict, my mind is full of thoughts, and my heart full of emotions. I've seen the sacrifice of ordinary Pakistanis doing their best to help their suffering compatriots. Their generosity is an inspiration, but also a challenge, to the rest of the world.
Posted by: CARE at 12:34PM EST on June 29, 2009
by Rick Perera, Media & Communications Officer
Just 12 years old, he carries the weight of the world on his narrow shoulders. The eldest of five children of a widowed mother, Sajjad Ahmad feels responsible for his family. It’s not easy being the man of the house at such a young age.
Posted by: CARE at 12:06PM EST on June 11, 2009
Blog by Rick Perera, Media Officer, CARE International in Pakistan:
ISLAMABAD – It’s become depressingly familiar: a tragic attack on civilians. Tuesday’s hotel bombing in Peshawar is just the latest in a string of events marring this beautiful country.... (more)
Posted by: CARE at 11:36AM EST on June 11, 2009
Blog by Rick Perera, Media Officer, CARE International in Pakistan:
Posted by: CARE at 10:48AM EST on June 5, 2009
Blog by Thomas Schwarz of CARE Germany-Luxemburg, May 28, 2009:
It is about noon up here in the northwestern province, or maybe a little later. In one of the camps for displaced people we meet a teacher, who is now volunteering to help his fellow countrymen. He tells us his story: "When all of the refugees arrived, I did not hesitate. I contacted the government to register as a volunteer. 'What can I do,' I asked them. 'How can I help?'"... (more)
Posted by: CARE at 1:26PM EST on June 4, 2009
Blog by Thomas Schwarz of CARE Germany-Luxemburg
While travelling to places like Pakistan, I naturally meet many different people. All of them have their own story and background, their traditions, cultures and personal experiences. Talking to the displaced people in Pakistan, I realized right away how different their path of life is compared to my own. Living in Buner, Kohistan, Dir and the village of Swat bears no resemblance at all to lifestyles in so many western countries. The gap could not be much bigger.... (more)
Posted by: CARE at 1:26PM EST on June 4, 2009
Blog by Thomas Schwarz of CARE Germany-Luxemburg
Today I visited a place close to Mardan, where tens of thousands took refuge from the ongoing fighting in Dir, Buner and the village of Swat. Their overall situation is horrible.... (more)
Posted by: CARE at 1:24PM EST on June 4, 2009
Blog by Thomas Schwarz of CARE Germany-Luxemburg
Posted by: CARE at 7:19AM EST on May 29, 2009
Blog by Thomas Schwarz of CARE Germany-Luxemburg, May 22, 2009
It’s been two and a half years since I last visited Pakistan. At that time, I was in the valley of Allai, in the north western part of the country. In October 2005, a massive earthquake struck the province. I visited the region twice: right after the disaster and a year later. CARE was able to help, in great part due to donations. Together, with the affected population, we built new schools – ones that many girls attend for the first time. This continues to be a big step, because girls’ education is not a given in this part of the world. In cooperation with Pakistani engineers, CARE offered trainings for housing construction so that buildings would be more stable and, hopefully, not collapse when another earthquake hits the region. With CARE’s support, Pakistani experts also built ditches in order to support agricultural activities. ... (more)