Bhutto says it is catastrophic situation in Sindh which demands massive rescue and relief work.
Faisal Edhi says ninety percept affected people are still away from the reach of relief and rescue organizations.
Suggesting the government to temporarily freeze payments of all foreign loans and immediate lifting ban on international NGOs, the civil society leaders here Friday demanded urgent import of edibles from all sources including India to avert a famine and massive starvation approaching fast after unprecedented monsoon rains in the country.
The civil society and trade union leaders arranged a press conference which was conducted by Zehra Khan of Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) here Friday to discuss the post-rains situation in the country, especially in Sindh. It was addressed by Faisal Edhi of Edhi Foundation, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Junior, the grandson of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, noted legal expert Rashid A Razvi, noted economist Dr. Kaiser Bengali, Khizr Qazi of HRCP, Dr. Mirza Ali Azhar of Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) and others.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Junior thanked the Edhi Foundation for its relief work in the flooded areas. He said he fully supports Edhi Foundation, adding his father Shaheed Mir Murtaza Bhutto also used to support Edhi. He said the Edhi Foundation is the most active emergency relief organization in Pakistan. He said it is catastrophic situation in Sindh which demands massive rescue and relief work. He appealed to all stakeholders to take steps on war footing basis to save the flood hit people.
Faisal Edhi said that despite all efforts of all relief organizations and agencies including the Edhi Foundation hardly ten percent people could be approached so far, while remaining ninety percent flood hit people are still to be reached out to. He said losses are colossal. The present figures of the losses of life and property are just the tip of the iceberg while the actual losses are very high. He said whole Pakistan is hardly hit by the rains and floods and not a single province is spared from destruction. He said the public response is not so warm that was seen in previous flood and earthquake. He said the situation would likely to take a worse turn. He said we appeal to all international organizations to respond positively and urgently to help Pakistan; otherwise, a new episode of international migration from Pakistan may begin like Syria as a severe humanitarian crisis is brewing in Pakistan following this human tragedy. He said as per initial estimates up to fifty million people have been affected. He said he personally has spent past nine days and the flooded areas of Sindh and he would only like to say that the situation is nightmarish. He said ninety percept affected people are still away from the reach of relief and rescue organizations. He said a lot of people are hungry for many days. He said starvation and diseases have started to emerge. He said edibles are not available in many areas and if they are available, they are being sold on 600 to 700 percent more prices. He said the government should punish the traders involved in black-marketing and hoarding.
Edhi said the same situation prevails in the southern Punjab and Balochistan; however, the situation is much better in the KpK province. He said during previous floods and earthquakes international NGOs have played a huge role in assisting people. He demanded lifting ban on all INGOs temporarily for one year. He asked to withdraw the Charities Act so that the local NGOs can also play their due role. He said import of edibles from India should be opened as imports from India would be cheaper due to low transportation costs. He said our top priority should be to save the lives of people and other things should be not considered at present trying time. He said to punish the NGO of Dr. Afridi INGOs were banned in Pakistan; however, there is a dire need to revisit the decision temporarily to cope with the situation. He said there should be no discrimination with the minorities in supply of relief goods.
Dr. Mirza Azhar of PMA said that we had already warned the government of floods and destruction but no heeds were paid to our cries. He said diseases and deaths have started to emerge from the flooded areas. He said the situation is quite worrisome. He appealed to the pharma companies to donate basic medicines as they are needed on emergency basis. He said some vested interests are also exploiting the situation and the government should stop them and allow only the genuine NGOs to collect donations from public. He said government silos of wheat have been damaged in affected districts and millions of tons of wheat have been washed away. He said a severe food crisis is looming large over the country.
He demanded to establish residential colonies in big cities for the affected masses who have lost everything including houses in the floods.
Qazi Khizr of HRCP said that as per early figures women and children are the major victims of diseases in the flooded areas. He said special focus is needed towards this vulnerable group. He condemned the incidents of sexual harassment of the flood affected women in the name of relief. He asked the government to reduce fifty percent of non-development expenses and spend these funds or relief and rehabilitation of the flood hit people. He asked the government to put moratorium on repayment of loan instalments.
Rashid A Razvi said the Charities Act should be withdrawn to allow the local NGOs to work with a free hand for rescue and relief of the flood hit population. He said the political parties have volunteers to arrange rallies but they do not have volunteers to go for rescue and relief work. He said that local and international NGOs should be given a free hand to help the affected population in this time of crisis.
Dr. Kaiser Bengali said that they had given proper engineering plans to the government about how to cope with the natural calamities but these plans were not fully implemented. He said pressure should be mounted on the government to implement these plans. He demanded using all-out resources for the urgent rescue, relief and rehabilitation of all the flood affected people.