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Pakistan: Help makes the difference between hope and despair

August 26th, 2010

In Pakistan I met a young man called Gul-a-Lala, which in Pashtun means “Flower of Paradise”. He is an Afghan refugee who lives in the village of Azakhel, in Nowshera district, which is north of Pakistan’s capital Islamabad. 

Gul-a-Lala escaped from war in Afghanistan to make a new life in Azakhel. But at the end of July the Monsoons arrived. His house was flooded together with the rest of the village. And when the waters receded they left behind a mess of bricks, broken wood and mud. Like many other victims of the floods in the north of Pakistan, he has been hit twice: he lost everything in the war and then he lost everything again with the floods. His traditional clothes were dirty, and his bare feet muddy.  When he knew who I was he asked me in perfect English: “What is Europe going to do to help us?”  For his village I had an answer – we were there to assess how a cash-for-work programme can help them rebuild, and relief is on the way. But this is just one drop in a sea of troubles. With more than 17 million people affected, spread all the way from north to south, and often in hard to reach places, Pakistan needs all the help it can get.

As soon as the scale of this disaster became clear the reaction from Europe has been fast and generous. The EU member states and the Commission have committed €220 M for immediate relief. I have deployed a team of 18 experts to coordinate our assistance with the UN and the Pakistani authorities. This means that we are able to reach as many people as possible, especially those in the most urgent need: children, women and isolated communities. 

So how is Europe going to help? Today, we must focus all our energy on life-saving support: food, shelter, sanitation, medical care, hygiene kits, drinking water. Tomorrow, when the waters retrieve, we will need to shift efforts to helping the agriculture sector and restoring key road links. Farmers have lost a large part of their crops and their livestock. If they don’t plant soon, they may also lose the next harvest, creating a food crisis in a year’s time. We also need to focus on sanitation to prevent the outbreak of water borne diseases. 

In the long run, Pakistan will need substantial help with reconstruction since the floods have washed away roads, houses, hospitals, schools.  And it is important that this help will be delivered in a way that increases the resilience of Pakistan to natural disasters. It is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change (as well as massive earthquakes), and needs to work hard to be better prepared for when the next disaster hits.

We have a huge task ahead of us. Most of the €70 million approved by the Commission has already been contracted in different programs. But we need to continue to move fast because failure to provide relief could lead to social unrest and even degenerate into chaos. Faced with this challenge the support of Europe and others in the international community can make a profound difference. The difference between hope and despair, between peace and conflict. We have done a lot but the rains are still pouring. There is still much more to do.

Pakistan: Help makes the difference between hope and despair, 4.7 out of 5 based on 28 ratings

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4 Responses to “Pakistan: Help makes the difference between hope and despair”

  1. financialtools1 says:

    Dear Commissioner Georgieva :

    The area of Pakistan,India as  well as Afghanistan has , among other huge problems that you mention, a massive need of electricity and electrical grid, towers, cabling, stations and substations,etc….  since it is so difficult to make deals with all the local tribal leaders and elders as well as elected leaders, real solutions need that participation of the whole block of the EU with all of them as well as the USA, only that way can all the engineering and financing can be “signed and delivered ” and all these thousands of kilometers of towers and cables installed.
    Since  many local leaders understand very well that  the whole area and specially now India and Pakistan need a total electric plan and engineering works and its long term financing , do you think the EU and the USA could work together a systematic electric plan for the whole region with all these Governments and get going ?

    The more these economies grow, the less economic ,social and health problems for them and the more work for us, but it will take a deal at the ” nation ” level, the whole EU and USA and others making a long term deal with India and Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc…. and time is of the essence.

    2) In India and now in Pakistan, we see also how they build homes and buildings right back again where the floods were before, why ? why not move away from the flood areas and build levees instead ?

    and since there is no electricity, they use expensive diesel generators, so more pollution and higher costs.

    3) Solar and wind energy in these areas is more important than ever,will the financing be there ?
    not to mention water straws , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LifeStraw  , and similar technologies.

    Dear Commissioner , the very best to you all in finding new solutions.

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  2. kristalinageorgieva says:

    Thank you for a very thoughtful comment.  On access to electricity, I agree it is paramount for development.  I would argue for as much renewable energy as possible -  and yes, it should be done on the basis of a long-term energy strategy.  FYI, this exact issue, energy strategy for Pakistan, is going to be on the agenda of the forthcoming Friends of Democratic Pakistan meeting in Brussels, co-chaired by HR/VP Cathy Ashton and Minister of Foreign Affairs of  Pakistan Qureshi.
    I am with you on flood protection — we need to combine good planning, so people don’t leave where they shouldn’t, with a sound investment program in flood protection (not only infrastructure, but also land management and reforestation).

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  3. nikolamiladinov says:

    Commissioner, why do you ware an Islamic veil?
    My colleagues ask the same thing: http://bruxelles.blogs.liberation.fr/coulisses/2010/10/la-commission-europ%C3%A9enne-fait-la-promotion-du-voile.html

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  4. kristalinageorgieva says:

    When I was in Pakistan, visiting a village affected by the floods, I followed the dressing code observed by humanitarian workers on the field. They need to respect certain rules to approach affected population without being rejected, but also not to expose themselves or others to unnecessary risks. Pakistan is a dangerous area for humanitarian workers! Last March, 6 of them were killed (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2011301449_pak10.html) and as close as in August three others were also murdered (http://www.devex.com/en/articles/3-humanitarian-workers-killed-in-pakistan-aid-official-says). If respecting a certain dressing code is necessary to provide effective aid and to avoid unnecessary risks to humanitarian workers I will do so.
    PS. Incidentally, on these pictures I wear a scarf and not a veil.

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