Is this the question we should be asking right now?


Thomas Schwarz, CARE media specialist in Pakistan
August 16, 2010

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.

Is this the question we should be asking right now? image 1

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.

Read more about the floods and CARE's relief efforts in Pakistan >