Safety, trauma and a miracle baby

Here's first of a series of posts from the flood-hit areas of Pakistan. After a month of growing concern at the situation here, my other half Jacqueline Novogratz and I decided we needed to get out here and see first-hand if we could do anything to help.  Jacqueline runs the Acumen Fund and is pondering smart ways to facilitate restoration. I figured I would try to understand the situation better and see if I could bring back some stories that main-stream media in the west aren't likely to bother with. Snapshots of what's happening on the ground.

We arrived in Karachi at 2am this morning, and at 7am joined a relief group flying up-country. First stop is at the Mithankot camp in southern Punjab.  180 tents housing some 2000 people. US-AID tents right alongside those from the Iranian Red Crescent (see below) - amazing who a crisis can bring together.

We spoke with a farmer who arrived with his family two days ago (pictured below). Their home and all possessions swept away two weeks ago.  After two weeks increasingly desperate huddling on open land they heard about this relief camp and made their way here. . . 

Another tent houses 25 people from two families (below). Their homes and all they own, including 100 goats and cows, are gone.  They have no idea what the future holds. The children are traumatized, but still some of them crack up at the sight of their pictures on a digital camera screen.  

The men gather round. They want to work, but have nothing to do. There's a sense of powerlessness, frustration.  There's not enough water. A single makeshift pump-well serves the camp on first-come first-served basis, but the water is constantly running out. Those with many children are unable to get enough.  

Although the human death toll from the floods has been surprisingly low given their staggering scale, I am shocked at how many livestock have perished. Just in this one camp, the men believe that between them they have lost thousands - mainly goats and cows.  Humans could be whisked away by boat, no room for the animals.  With agricultural land ruined for perhaps a year, and livestock lost, the short term prospects for these people are bleak indeed.

It's clear a massive reconstruction effort will be needed. 

At another camp in northern Sindh province, we hear of a miracle baby. Here he is.

Wahir Ali was born two days ago right here in the camp. It's incredible he's alive. Two weeks ago his mother and grandmother were plucked from the flood waters by fellow villagers and they've been sustained at the camp ever since, their home gone.  I'd love to paint this as a joyful tale. It may turn out that way. But right now, the mother is exhausted, the grandmother stressed, and Wahir is running a raging fever, and there's a serious shortage of doctors.... 

We leave the camps on the highway to Shikarpur, the town where I was born (my British father worked in Pakistan as an eye surgeon). Except there's a 12 kilometer section of the road that has been submerged by flood waters.  

We prepare to depart in boats to visit a flooded village, then discover the boats are leaky and the engines breaking down. So instead I'm ending my first day here with a four-hour drive, my head reeling.  How do you communicate the scale of what's happened here? But already I've met a host of smart, passionate Pakistanis determined to help turn disaster into hope.  They speak of new designs for relief tents, of new village facilities built to avoid flooding, of "building back better".  I'll be sharing some of these stories in the next few days.

Chris Anderson TED Curator "Ideas Worth Spreading"

If you have a story from the Pakistan floods, please email it to (Pakistan floods: the stories we're not being told

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6 responses
I wish doctors around the world could come to pakistan and save these innocent lives. I am sad that i am not in a position to help you'l :C. May god help the people in Pakistan !
Thank you for this report. It's disheartening to see the lack of attention this disaster is receiving and refreshing to see you in action. Aside from donations what can I do to help? Is there a volunteer organization that I can sign up with? I want to help but aren't seeing many outlets that allow me to do so.
Thank you,
As the waters rose, the disaster became palpable, and the story became real, reminding me of the terrible floods in my homeland of Southern Africa in 2000.

And finally, the people could watch no more, and started to open their hearts and wallets- even if Wikileaks created the impression that Pakistan was a duplicitous partner.

In a take-way chicken shop in downtown Sydney tonight where I dropped in for a career-mum pick-up dinner after a 14 hour work-day, the staff had a handwritten card pasted on the counter: "All tips are going to Pakistan, and we are personally matching that." There was nearly $1000 in the jar. They also listed the names of all organisations providing disaster relief and reconstruction work in Pakistan...with a note that all donations are tax deductible!

This- from the staff in a take-away chicken shop! That's how the world works... through the compassion of ordinary folks most change happens...their generosity as low wage earners did more to stir my passion than all the television coverage combined.

I do hope the money reaches the victims...and I do hope that TED can make a difference.

Safe travels!

Great story, Annalie. Hasan, are you in Pakistan? The Citizens Foundation has a volunteer program. We met some amazing volunteers from Karachi today - student engineers helping put up dozens of tents at speed. Inspiring.
Just an amazing story. You are a bright light of hope in a place in this world that has too few of them. I wish you safety and all the best.


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