We must help the people of Pakistan

16/09/2010 at 4:52 pm 1 comment

Ireland has a long tradition of coming to the aid of people who suffer from disasters. The floods in Pakistan, the worst disaster on record, prompt us all to do our utmost to help our fellow human beings.

Ireland has a long track record of responding generously, and effectively, to emergencies. We have a proud tradition of helping the victims of disaster, right across the world, and through Irish generosity many thousands of lives have been saved.

Earlier this year, when a tremendous earthquake shook Haiti, the members of Dóchas received over €21 million in a matter of days, helping them stem outbreaks of disease, and start rebuilding a country. And people in Ireland donated an astounding €100 million to the emergency relief following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

The humanitarian response in Haiti is ongoing, and will continue. And now aid agencies are doing their best to make sure those affected by another major disaster in Pakistan don’t suffer needlessly.

The devastation in Pakistan is beyond compare

It is incredible to think that the scale of the devastation wrought by the horrific earthquake in Haiti is now being repeated just months later, in Pakistan. We as aid workers know that disasters will come, but increasingly events of such devastating magnitude are no longer separated by years of relative calm, as they were in the past. Major disasters are following each other hard and fast.

Maybe the floods in Pakistan can be contributed to a combination of environmental degradation and climate change. Maybe the years of turmoil in Pakistani politics have contributed to a deterioration of the country’s ability to withstand shocks. Or perhaps, this is simply a bad year – a year unlucky enough to see two major disasters.

Whatever the reason, in Pakistan right now, the world is witnessing another disaster of monumental proportions.

Pakistan needs our help

This year’s annual monsoon rains have set off a chain of events that have left almost a quarter of Pakistan under water. More than 17 million Pakistanis, many of them farmers, have watched these floods wipe out their homes, crops, hospitals, and livelihoods, forever changing their lives.

Luckily, very few of us here in Ireland know what it is like to have our lives forever changed by natural or man-made disasters. The floods we experienced some months ago resulted in suffering for many families, but no-one lost their life, and most of the victims have received compensation from the State, or from their insurance companies.

Not so for the 17 million Pakistanis affected by the floods. These people – ordinary people, who just like people here, worry about their children, their schools, their government and their roads – have lost their possessions, their savings and their livelihoods. And now, they need our help.

The floods have wiped away the possessions of millions of people, who now face a future where they have to find money to re- build their homes, clear the debris from their land (if it has not been washed away), restock their shops and market stalls, re-equip small businesses, etc. – and all this in towns where the schools, clinics, courts and police stations are in need of repair.

We know that Pakistan is likely to lose at least one year’s harvest, and will possibly face several years of reduced harvests, because of the effects of soil erosion, destroyed irrigation, and contaminated soil. The prospect of famine in Pakistan is far from theoretical, nor is the prospect of this crisis tipping into another, when the resentment boils over, and topples a fragile democratically elected government.

Responding effectively

In Pakistan, like in so many countries in crises before, Irish aid agencies are assisting those in need. But they can only do so with the help of individual people in Ireland, who donate their time and money to the relief effort.  

And they do so professionally. Irish aid agencies and aid workers are able to save lives and livelihoods, because they adhere to the core humanitarian principles: that all people have the right to have basic needs; that humanitarian assistance is provided to all, regardless of nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions; and that humanitarian workers do not take sides in any conflict or controversy.

As of this week, Irish aid agencies working in Pakistan have received over €5 million in donations from the Irish public. We know from the outpouring of support and concern after the earthquake in Haiti that even during these difficult economic times, we as a country are capable of so much more. And the people of Pakistan, who are living through the worst disaster on record, are counting on it.

The international community is trying its best to respond quickly in cash as well as in kind, but in terms of the scale of the disaster, more immediate funds will be required to stave off a second wave of disaster: people suffering or dying due to disease or hunger.

We have no choice. We must help the people of Pakistan. We simply won’t be at peace with ourselves when millions are suffering through no fault of their own. By helping now, we can revive a great Irish tradition, and remind ourselves of our common humanity. We can remind ourselves of who we are, and what we stand for.

For more information, visit www.HowYouCanHelp.ie

Entry filed under: Overseas aid.

Charity begins at home, but Irish people don’t want it to end there. Poor people can’t afford to be cynical about political promises.

1 Comment Add your own

  • […] Both countries will need at years of international support to come out of the crisis, to recover economically, and to be able to take charge of their own development again. They will need aid to help provide essential services, and to undo the vulnerability of the past. Haiti and Pakistan don’t just need to be rebuilt. They need to be rebuilt better, with less risk of disaster in the future. […]


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