According to United Nations reports, floods in Pakistan that began in July have killed more than 1,700 people, destroyed nearly 2 million homes and affected 20 million people. Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, recently said that to understand the full impact of the flood, one should multiply the devastation of Hurricane Katrina by 100 times.
“The crisis has been the worst ever to hit Pakistan,” says Hussain Nadim, a recent graduate of The George Washington University in Washington, DC. “The devastation is beyond any calculations.”
A Pakistani native who says his entire family and the majority of his friends live in Pakistan, Mr. Nadim is the student coordinator for the Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington. Mr. Nadim has already attracted more than 150 Pakistani students in universities across the U.S. to the embassy’s student outreach Facebook group, and he has been in touch with another 550 Pakistani students through other media.
“Honestly, I contacted only half of the people, and the rest contacted me,” he says. “Pakistani students in the United States were so motivated that they visited the embassy’s website and immediately got in touch with me.”
Mr. Nadim says the embassy approached him to be the student coordinator, because he had already mobilized Pakistani students two years ago as an intern at the embassy.
“I handle pretty much everything related to flood relief campaigns by students studying in America,” he says.
The “overwhelming” number of people who have contacted him includes both Pakistani and American students, Mr. Nadim says. He recently received an e-mail from 13-year-old students who wanted to start a flood relief campaign at their Ohio school. Mr. Nadim provided the school with information about the scope of the tragedy and guided them through the donation process.
Mr. Nadim says he is currently organizing a “mega fundraising event” at the embassy, which will bring together Pakistani student associations from three Midwest colleges. Over dinner, which will cost $45, the students will hear from influential Pakistani speakers and will have the opportunity to network and to purchase items from an auction to benefit flood victims.
“This is just one of the first in a series of events throughout the United States,” says Mr. Nadim.
According to Mr. Nadim, the international community is providing “very little” assistance to Pakistan following the flood, with the exception of the United States’ “really strong support.” He says friends and relatives in Pakistan are grateful for the U.S. support but concerned that long-term, sustained aid will be required.
“People are really worried about what will happen in the post-flood scenario with all the crops destroyed and millions of people displaced,” he says. “But surprisingly, even with all the suicide bombings, floods and war going on inside Pakistan, people are very brave.”
Pakistanis have learned to adapt, he says, and though conditions are very difficult, people are hopeful.
(Photo: UNICEF Canada)
Menachem Wecker is a writer and editor at the news website of The George Washington University, George Washington Today, where this article was previously published published.