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Changing the mindset

Changing the mindset

We, Pakistanis, have a certain pattern of responding to national disasters. The kind which involves developing a bubble of patriotism and its quick bursting after a certain period that is only effective for short-term solutions. Such has been the case with the recent floods in the county. It has been nearly three months since the waters gushed through our lands and although water levels have receded, the biggest natural disaster in modern history still yearns to create the hype it deserved. There has been an exponential decrease of passion, donations and the will to rehabilitate the 20 million affected by the floods once the holy month of Ramazan ended.

We travelled to Dera Din Panah, in South Punjab to make another delivery of relief aid towards the end of October. We had already visited this particular area twice earlier, but continuous calls for help from the locals forced us to take note of the immediate need of the affectees. With supplies of blankets and warm clothes for about 1,000 families, we left for the area. With the onset of winter, the needs of the people have changed from ration and temporary shelters to warm clothes, self-sustaining rebuilding projects, prolonged medical care and permanent shelters.

As per our survey, 140 houses in basti Hyder Ghazi, 25 in basti Sattiwala, 21 in basti Bhagsar, 40 in Jamali, 18 in Mir Hassanwala, 30 in Samandari, 10-15 in basti Arra, 20 in Mai Sohagan and, around 100 houses in main city had been completely destroyed. Farmers, labourers and small-scale businessmen have taken loans from families and friends and have started rebuilding their houses, while those who couldn’t afford to are still waiting for some sort of relief.

The situation had changed in the past few weeks as only traces of water and its destruction remained. This town had been adversely affected, with nearly 99 per cent of it underwater. Locals told me only one street, which housed the mausoleum of Sufi Saint Syed Abdul Wahab Bukhari, known as Hazrat Din Panah, after whom the town was named, did not drown.

The complaints people had (from the shopkeepers to small farmers) were the same: not having enough money to start running their business again, not having enough money to prepare farmlands as the cost of per acre cost to water their fields had increased considerably as the canal irrigation systems had been damaged due to the floods. Local labourers also stated that ‘foreign’ NGOs were not involving local manpower for rehabilitation, which could be beneficial to the community and also provide these people with a steady source of income.

The solution, as they put it, was to start self-sustaining projects involving the local communities, like providing business-related aid to help small business owners, providing diesel or bearing the cost for preparing the farmlands of local farmers, stressing upon NGO’s to hire local laborers for rebuilding projects and other entrepreneurial projects which can be sustainable and will help the locals stand on their feet again.

This rehabilitation phase will cost us more and require more focus. We cannot let the notion of “we have already helped,” run unbridled through our masses and the media must play its role in creating this awareness. It doesn’t feel like we are in midst of one of the biggest humanitarian crisis of recent history. We must change this mindset, in whatever capacity we can.

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi is an aeronautical engineer, a poet and a social activist who is the founding force & chairperson of the Pakistan Youth Alliance. He can be found on Twitter and is available on Facebook.

*Photos by author

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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52 Responses to “Changing the mindset”

  1. nazir alam says:

    i read your article and agree with you that our minds must be change so that we become the best nation

  2. nazir alam says:

    this is the big problem in Pakistan that today Pakistanis are in the misery, poverty and wrong social conditions are the our national asserts but today every one is in the economical crisis and they would like to come out.

  3. Maryam Hussain says:

    The effort you are putting in along with your fellow memebers is commendable. Keep up the awesome work! :D

  4. Please keep up the good work. May Allah bring blessings for our poor people.

  5. Our foundation is looking for a reliable partner to help build houses and provide basic help. Please contact http://www.oneummah.com.
    Keep up the good work and we appreciate what you are doing. We are based in USA.

    Saeed

  6. SyedAliAbbas says:

    TY everyone. Theres nothing special in what we are doing, its a duty. We need to constantly bombard the media, our offices, schools, hoods, drawing room and remind eachother of this. Media is too busy ‘finding’ the errs, and we have to find the solutions and remedies to them.

    • Judy Findlay says:

      There is much about what you do that is special. The fact that you responded to the need with action is a reflection of wisdom and understanding not seen in your elders. Most were unable to understand the immensity of the tragedy—internationally, and I suspect even in Pakistan. You saw the vacuum of leadership and gave out the “call to action”. And, remarkably, youth responded!!!! Congratulations.

  7. ILMANA FASIH says:

    We are a people with knee jerk reactions and short term memory-be it disasters, terrorism or sports.A moment of compassion the the next moment it is business as usual.We need to change this into a consistency in our empathy for the needy and the helpless.

    Need to stop the lip service and act now with minds and hands.

    Bring smile to a distressed face and your soul smiles.
    Bring comfort to a despondent mind and your conscience is comforted.
    Bring a ray of hope to a desperate life and your life brightens up.

    It is only experience that teaches us how intoxicating helping out the helpless and the needy is.

    PYA, Ali and his gang, keep up the good work.Your spirits have put most of us seniors to a shame.

    • When you go to a dark room turn the lights on.Don,t talk about darkness. We all see the problem let,s find solution. If you can help one person or one family just do it please.
      Thank God we still have lots of great God fearing people that want to help out. Ramadan is gone but the problems are still there. We can,t be looking for international aid all the time. The money Pakistan rich families save after giving corruption to Tax people should be use in helping the affected.Sorry but this is truth and I hope it hurts someone.

  8. Maria says:

    Great work Ali. my all time support is there for PYA. Bless ya!
    PYA! Yaaayyyyyyyy!!!…

  9. Zeeshan says:

    How to donate?

  10. Reactionary says:

    Ppl like you make me have hope for pakistan, something I gave up a long time ago

  11. shaikh says:

    I suggest to go for some talks now – like campaigns – ignite ppl man

  12. Mr. Hunzala says:

    After reading this article I am saddened by the response if local relief workers and foreign NGOs. Why our floods didnot reach the same level of help as Haiti and Tsunami is a sad question to ask from international community

  13. mehwish says:

    Great write-up over all

  14. mehwish says:

    right said – but execution plan ??

  15. Rafia says:

    yeah Ali we’re with you !!!!

  16. Tehmina says:

    Thank you Ali for this useful update on the post flood situation and your contructive suggestions. I have been scanning the papers for news about the post flood relief efforts and unfortunately there is very little – not only in the foreign press which seems to have forgotten this disaster completely, but also in the Pakistani press where the flood and its aftermath has ceased to be covered on the front pages, relegated somewhere to the back if it is covered at all. In the large cities you are hardly aware that this is a country still grappling with the worst natural calamity in its history – indeed in living memory the world over.

    In reality the situation of those displaced by the floods continues to remain perilous. Relief organizations are running out of funds to continue providing food rations to those in camps. Malnutrition and child mortality are on the increase, affecting the youngest and most helpless members of society. 7 million people continue to be out in the open with no shelter whatsoever as the winter approaches. Not to mention the 20 million or so in total, who have lost valuable assets and don’t know where to begin to bring some semblance of order to their lives and get back on their feet economically.

    The rest of the 150 million of us not affected by the floods have a huge responsibility not to forget those who are suffering, otherwise we will never turn the page on this disaster which has set the clock back decades. We must do more individually and we must demand more from our government, private sector, civil society and media. In particular the media needs to insist on keeping this issue in the public eye – forgetting about cricket and soap operas and political shenanigans for now – nothing is more important than rehabilitating the flood victims and getting this huge segment of the population back on their feet.

  17. Pakeezah says:

    I must say that Mr. Ali and the members of his team are doing a phenomenal job.

    The problem here is that our government is not interested in helping people (which is a very clear fact). If they won’t leave their Mahals and see the destruction by visiting those places, they simply won’t have the sympathy for them. I know there are some who have actually dared to do so but a few can’t do much. We need every one to come out and support them with whatever they can. And I’m pretty sure that our Ministers possess more than what we do today :)
    Anyway, please bear in mind it is everyone’s responsibility to help those who have been affected by the disaster!

  18. Sunny says:

    :) my prayers are with you guys. KEEP IT UP PYA !

  19. Zareen Zubair says:

    I totally agree with you Ali. We have to give in our level best in order to cope up with the survival and rehabilitation of the flood victims. You’re such an inspiration for all us youth to step up and do something. God bless

  20. Hassan says:

    Pakistan Youth Alliance Zindabad!! Keep striving for the top Ali, I am always with you!! :)

  21. Asim says:

    Ali, you are doing great work and making us proud.. :) keep it up, we are with you

  22. Unknown says:

    Ali you are doing a great job and making us proud on our youth, we should focus on measures to streamline these efforts.. I agree that Pakistan is going through tough times facing both natural and unnatural disasters and people like you are our hope in these times of test.. :)

  23. Zubair says:

    Excellent work!!

  24. Harun says:

    I agree, we need collective effort to deal with national crisis like this one..

  25. Aabid Bashir says:

    Ali you are right, and i feel that the media should bring these issues on talk shows instead of wasting time arguing on useless things

  26. Kashif says:

    Sir i totally agree with your thoughts.. and i feel that the media should highlight these issues to common public

  27. Afsha says:

    brilliant article written.. keep writing more.. :)

  28. Umar says:

    i totally agree with you Mr. Ali

  29. Rafia says:

    It’s the same as always – we’re such a emotional nation – when sth happens we get our emotions at peak and then you’re right bubble bursts as quickly as it blows up – FAIL

  30. Asim Ali says:

    great article Ali.. and i totally agree with you..


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