Jamshoro, Pakistan – Last month’s monsoon floods ravaged large parts of Pakistan, overwhelming disaster management efforts. But dozens of nonprofits and entrepreneurs, old and young, stepped in as their country faced the worst disaster in decades.
From tents to blankets, mosquito nets to water purifiers, food to hygiene kits, and from anti-malarial drugs to basic fever medicine – everything is in great need.
“Millions and millions of people do not have access to water, shelter and food. “We’ve seen children malnourished and suffering from skin diseases, diarrhea, everything you can imagine,” Abdullah Fadil, Pakistan representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), told Al Jazeera.
Fadil said more resources are needed, such as medicines and medical food for children and lactating and pregnant mothers, of whom 680,000 are among the 33 million people affected by the floods.
“We need the world to pay attention to the dire needs of children and mothers of Pakistan. I hope the world will pay attention to this disaster caused by climate change.”
Last week, UN chief Antonio Guterres said he had not seen ‘climate carnage of this scale’ after visiting the flood-hit South Asian country.
The international response so far has been slow, so some Pakistanis are doing their best to help fellow citizens. Here are some of his stories.
The floods have damaged or destroyed more than 1.5 million homes. For weeks, people faced rain and scorching sun as they had no shelter. Thousands of Pakistanis have donated tents and tarps so that people can get some relief.
Muhammad Omar, an advertising executive in the southern port city of Karachi, thought the best way forward would be to rely on the Panaflex sheets used on billboards.
“We only asked to cut them into rectangles of four meters by three meters, asked our team to install metal rivets so they could be hooked or tied with wires, and voila we had a cost-effective and It was easy—deploy shelters that could provide some shade for desperate families left homeless by the floods,” Omar told Al Jazeera.
Since then, Omar and a group of volunteers have helped raise more than $40,000 for dozens of tents and transport them to remote areas including Keti Bandar, Kachi, Jhal Magasi, Gandkha, Sukkur and Khairpur by lorries, helicopters and boats. managed to carry on. In southern Sindh province – the area most affected by floods.
Tent manufacturers have found this crisis their opportunity, and hundreds of small and medium factories have flocked to major cities.
Water everywhere, not a drop to drink
Millions of people in Pakistan are drinking contaminated water, and some are forced to drink water from ponds in which dead cattle are swimming.
“UNICEF has distributed millions of liters of water, but this is just a drop of what people need in the ocean,” said UNICEF representative Fadil.
The World Health Organization has warned of outbreaks of several diseases due to unhygienic conditions for people displaced by the floods.
Economist Hamza Farooq has worked since 2014 on providing clean water without using electricity. Farooq, through his non-profit Bond-a-Shams – which translates to “drops of the sun” – has used a solar-powered water filtration unit to purify contaminated water. ,
He says the Solar Water Box provides a robust, on-wheels, solar-powered water filtration unit that can deliver up to 10,000 liters of filtered water per day.
Dozens of solar boxes have been deployed in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh provinces to assist flood survivors, rapidly up to 50 boxes a month. Filtered water can help control water-borne diseases apart from keeping people from becoming dehydrated.
The box is a semi-permanent solution because once the flood waters recede, the same units can be moved to permanent water sources in villages.
Bond-e-Shams has given an estimated 50 million cups of clean water to 40 communities around the world, including the Rohingya in Bangladesh and those in need in Afghanistan, South Sudan, Yemen and Pakistan, Farooq says.
Their aim is to “help mitigate the global water crisis by 2050”.
Another startup, called Pakvite, is providing a filter product that requires no electricity. Using gravity and attaching to the bottom of water containers, the filters can provide up to 10,000 liters.
Jari Masood, management consultant for Pakvite, says filters made from fiber membranes are used to eliminate most impurities and bacteria.
Since the flooding began, Pakvite has donated some units and started providing filters to relief workers. They’ve lowered the price: instead of 5,000 rupees ($22), they charge 4,000 rupees ($18) for flood relief, and they’ve added a 15-liter jerry can per unit for flood relief units.
no electricity, no light
Nights are dark for thousands of people living in small stretches of dry land in most parts of Sindh, including Jamshoro. At least 101 people have been treated for snake bites and 550 for dog bites.
Businessman Raza Zubair heard about the plight of flood victims during Friday’s sermon. He and his friends have provided solar-powered lamps for the survivors.
Their lightweight solar lamps have offered much-needed illumination to thousands of people.
Like other volunteers, Sun King Solar business owner Zubair is also distributing essential items including food ration, medicines, mosquito nets and toiletries.
His company has reduced the cost of basic solar lamps for flood victims and also introduced lanterns, which can recharge phones as well. A solar lamp now costs 1,000 rupees ($7.20) instead of 1,600 ($7.20), and a solar lantern costs 4,000 rupees ($18) instead of 6,500 ($29).
When many citizens, government agencies and NGOs start helping people, there is a risk of duplicity and aid not reaching the right people.
Enlight Lab co-founder Shafiq Gigyani was disappointed at not finding relevant data for his native village on the banks of the Swat River in northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Enlight Lab, a non-profit organization, decided to collect data for flood-affected areas across Pakistan. The company came up with Flood.PK – a crowdsourced platform for flood-affected people to call for help and respond to field teams.
Gigani, who lives in Peshawar, says this data streamlines shelter, relief, medical aid, volunteer support and fundraising, along with answering some questions about the floods.
Other aggregators and crowdfunding platforms such as Floodlight are also providing similar data sets for volunteers and victims.
As the winds of relief and rescue dwindle, the burning question is what happens next after the water recedes and devastation. The main task of rehabilitation will require providing homes for hundreds of thousands of people.
How does a cash-strapped, debt-ridden economy pay for it?
Miran Saifi and three others founded Modulus Tech in 2017 to address the housing shortage in Pakistan. Even before the devastating floods, the country had a housing gap of 10 million.
Modulus Tech aims to provide easy-to-assemble homes for refugees globally.
The team at Modulus Tech is developing long-term solutions for flood survivors by designing homes that are low-cost and can be installed quickly.
They are using non-traditional methods of construction and off-grid solutions through responsible sourcing of sustainable and lightweight materials. They claim that their homes now pollute 90 percent less than traditional home construction.
Afia Salam, chairman of the board of Indus Earth Trust, says long-term rehabilitation solutions are as important as immediate relief.
Along with her colleagues, she is trying to raise funds to rebuild homes by training masons and supervisors in flood-affected areas. Their designs include cost-effective, locally sourced homes that also have a low carbon footprint.
This is neither a comprehensive nor exhaustive list, but just a small representation of the hundreds of organizations old and new and the thousands of selfless volunteers who are serving as Pakistan grapples with its worst climate disaster.