Saturday, August 21, 2010

How Pakistan army's orders could make life worse for victims

According to IRNA, some 60,000 Pakistani troops are working on flood recovery efforts.  But reading the article, you have to wonder how much time soldiers will be spending meeting the actual needs of flood victims:
When asked about reports that banned groups are active in relief activities, the army spokesman said that there are clear orders that banned outfits are not allowed to work and their camps and banners will be removed. But welfare organizations, and groups affiliated with political parties and social groups are allowed to work in floods-hit areas.
Such standing orders could seriously hamper relief efforts, and have the unintended consequence of weakening the moral authority of the government in flood-afflicted regions. In remote regions, religious organizations have often been the only groups providing needed services to victims.  According to an earlier New York Times report:
The Islamic charities sprung into action immediately after the floods hit last week, they said, sending a brigade of 4,000 volunteers in Nowshera, in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, to rebuild homes in villages far too dangerous for foreign aid workers to enter...

Officials at one aid center associated with Jamaat-ud-Dawa said that the police tried to dismantle their operation on Tuesday morning as they prepared a breakfast for about 25 flood victims, using an ordinance that prohibited public gatherings without a permit.

The victims protested and pleaded with the police not to shut down a humanitarian service that the government was not providing....
To the extent the government of Pakistan, whether through the army or other means, provides assistance to distressed persons, local populations would obviously have no need to turn to the hard-line Islamic orders for help.   Until such time as government-approved organizations are actually capable of delivering sufficient aid to victims, does a government -- any government, anytime, anywhere -- have any business stipulating who may or may not come to the assistance of people in dire straights?

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This Medicins sans frontiers video provides an overview of the kinds of problems that urgently need to be addressed  in Pakistan.  For example, ensuring access to clean drinking water and the prevention epidemics such as cholera.

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