Back to work with a bang after the summer holidays. While I was enjoying some south coast sunshine with my family, thousands of Pakistani families have been struggling through chest-high flood waters trying to salvage what’s left of their belongings. Sadly, those could be said to have been the lucky ones.
The team in the office here had already begun the British Red Cross response, but the true scale of the disaster only became apparent this morning. That’s why we’ve upped the ante, released an initial £50,000 from our Disaster Fund and launched the Pakistan Floods Appeal.
I’ve said this before, but it’s impressive when our media and fundraising teams work so closely alongside us to publicise this appeal and give people the opportunity to respond. Media outlets want to know what the Red Cross has got to say about disasters of this scale and it’s a part of the job to fit these in among the more routine aspects of decision-making around what form our support is going to take.
Today for me it’s been ITV and BBC News 24, and already some of the more difficult questions are emerging around access to regions where there has been fighting in recent years. It’s important to remember that these floods have affected a huge part of the country, covering a variety of different challenges. With our partner, the Pakistan Red Crescent, having branches and volunteers throughout the country, they have been well placed to respond. Indeed, they have a long history of utilising our neutrality to work in even the most difficult locations, including those affected by conflict.
With more rains forecast, we’re worried about the risk of diarrhoea and cholera. We’re also worried that – with so many roads and bridges damaged – aid is going to be difficult to move around.
What I do know is that the local team on the ground will be doing everything to find a way around these problems. Using helicopters will be one pricey, but probably needed option to reach those who desperately need our help.
I would never wish a disaster like this on anyone, but it’s given me an immediate reminder about why we work in disaster response, rather than the usual post-holiday blues.
Image © REUTERS/Adrees Latif/courtesy www.alertnet.org