Editorial : The wretched of Sindh - Monday, March 19, 2012

Source : http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-8-98448-The-wretched-of-Sindh

A report released by the People’s Accountability Commission for Floods (PACF) has pointed out that the government and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance have failed to raise sufficient funds to help flood victims in Sindh. As a result, thousands of victims remain extremely vulnerable — without sufficient food and without livelihood. The report states that against an initial call to raise over US$356 million, less than half that amount has in fact been received. Another appeal for funding in January this year has brought no funds at all. The PACF has also said that the processes of damage assessment and identification of needs have not been properly carried out by any body. Because of this state of affairs, over 43,000 families headed by women are facing food insecurity, and this is in addition to another 352,000 families suffering severe food insecurity. Their plight has been highlighted before by the media and humanitarian agencies, but little has been done to offer the relief required.

The International Organisation for Migration, in another recent report and while making an appeal for more funds, has stated that thousands of displaced families in Sindh have still not been able to return home, mainly because their villages, or the roads leading to them, are still under water. Most of these families are living in camps along roadsides, most of which are without lighting, without even blankets and other basic facilities. Those who have somehow managed to return to their homes are living in equally abysmal conditions, and in many cases are even worse off. Yet another report, prepared by the government’s own Relief Department, points out that almost 25 per cent of arable land in Sindh still lies under floodwater, for it has the misfortune of belonging to the less influential, and has not been given the same treatment as those pieces of land that are owned by the privileged and the powerful. The report identifies discrimination, favouritism and corruption in the provision of aid and assistance as factors that hinder relief to the affected poor, and stresses the need to improve the government’s image. And indeed it is this ‘image’ that has been the bane of us from the beginning. The situation is dire and the agencies working with flood victims, though aware of the situation, are unable to do enough to offer them the help they need, for lack of funds. And part of the reason for this lies in the perceptions that exist nationally and internationally about corruption and mismanagement as far as official mechanisms in the country are concerned. This is becoming a huge handicap for us and is doing the greatest harm to the helpless victims of the floods of 2011 who are struggling, in inhuman conditions, merely to survive. Amid their jubilation over this electoral victory or that political gain, the rulers should be able to spare some time thinking about those rotting in misery in hovels. Does the government have a plan for these people? Does it have a plan for its own image?

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