The flash floods brought on by excessive monsoon rains in Pakistan are causing more than 14 million people to suffer, according to the UN. That’s more than the number affected by 2004’s Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake combined. Entire villages have been submerged under raging waters, while the sheer force of currents has destroyed roads and bridges, cutting off thousands of civilians from the rest of the country – and from rescue. Conditions are unimaginable: poisonous snakes are being carried into family homes by the water, and drowned bodies float past the stranded. It’s the worst natural disaster the country has seen.
In Dubai, an independent community of volunteers is working round the clock to send aid to the flood victims. Acting entirely on their own initiative and in their own time, the group is led by Kabul Wazir Mir, a British expat who embarked on a second, unpaid career as a humanitarian early last year, finding himself moved by the plight of civilians caught up in the war between Pakistan’s army and the Taliban in Swat valley.
‘Last year I raised money and collected supplies for the people of Swat valley and later orphans in Afghanistan,’ he tells Time Out. ‘Over Ramadan I went to Afghanistan and Pakistan, I took the donations over there and I spent time with the people.’ Mir raised awareness through Facebook groups and was astonished by the response from Dubaians, many of whom not only made donations, but helped pack containers with supplies to ship to the needy.
Pakistan needs Dubai’s volunteers more than ever right now. Bad weather has prevented helicopters from reaching those in the worst affected areas, forcing them to survive without food or shelter. The effects of the flooding will be long-term: agricultural land has been destroyed and herds of livestock killed, which means that not only will trade be affected, but the population will struggle to eat. Mir and his friends will continue working long after the newspapers stop running the stories, because Pakistan will need all the help it can get for a long time to come.
The floods must touch on a particularly personal note for Mir. Swat valley, formerly one of the country’s most beautiful nature spots, was torn apart by anti-Taliban fighting in 2009. Just as Swat’s people started putting their lives back together, the floods hit and have cut off the whole north-west of Swat valley from the rest of Pakistan. Can he imagine what it’s like out there? ‘You know what, I can’t,’ he responds. ‘It can only be utter devastation.’ He sighs deeply, and tells us when the floods dry up, there will likely be various epidemics of disease:malaria from mosquitoes attracted by human corpses, cholera and typhoid.
‘At the moment food and medicine are the most important donations,’ Mir tells us. We wonder whether, considering the difficulty of reaching those in need, the donations will get through. ‘We have people on the other side who are mobilising volunteers. It’s a nationwide element, people want to help, but they need to receive the goods first.’
So how can we get involved? ‘Every little helps, no matter what, that’s my motto,’ says Mir. He describes his volunteer group as the ‘ignition’ for anyone who feels they’d like to contribute, but isn’t sure how: just get in touch and he’ll find you a job.
How can I help?
Kabul Wazir Mir, Pakistan Association Dubai (PAD) and UNICEF are all collecting donations for Pakistan’s flood victims. While UNICEF is fundraising (04 360 0778; email@example.com), Mir and PAD are accepting the following:
• Food (rice, lentils, pulses, dried fruits, cooking oil, sugar, biscuits)
• Medicine (water purifying tablets, antiseptic creams, anti-malarial drugs, painkillers, bandages, multivitamins, etc)
PAD: 04 337 3632; pakassociationdubai.com
Kabul Wazir Mir: 050 351 9776; or check out ‘Pakistan relief – Swat donations’ on Facebook to find out more.
The unprecedented destruction that Pakistan is currently enduring has triggered an overwhelming response from many individuals, companies and charities based here in Dubai. You too can play your part by donating money, supplies, or even your mobile phone. Time Out explores some of the ways you can contribute to the relief effort…
The Green Foundation
Time Out featured The Green Foundation a few weeks ago [August 5 – 12, to be precise]. For those who missed that issue, a recap – The Green Foundation collects old mobile phones, laptops, MP3 players and many other electrical goods, and recycles them or sells them on. The money made from these transactions goes directly to charity. In response to the situation in Pakistan, The Green Foundation will channel revenue made from these electronic donations directly to UNICEF’s Pakistan relief operation. To find out how and where you can drop off your disused gadgetry, call 04 344 3160 or check out www.thegreenfoundation.me
Holiday Inn Al Barsha
Until September 18, staff at Holiday Inn Dubai Al Barsha will be accepting donations for Pakistan’s flood victims. You can drop supplies such as blankets, food (non-perishable), medicine and clothes throughout the day at the hotel reception or with the concierge at night. Sorting and packaging of donations takes place at Gharana restaurant from 8pm each day. Call 04 323 4333 for details, or see www.holidayinn.com/www.hialbarshadubai.com
We’re all busy people, but not having time to leave your desk to go and donate is no excuse! Give money online to one of the following aid organisations:
Disasters Emergency Committee
Log onto the DEC website and you’ll find countless ways in which to donate.
Oxfam accepts donations in pound sterling via Mastercard or Visa.
The UNICEF website accepts online payments from bank accounts the world over.
The relief operation is ongoing. There’s a citywide fundraising drive planned for next week. Keep an eye on Time Out for details.