Pakistan relief plan grows

Estimated 20 million homeless after floods

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While Americans have been slow to give to flood relief in Pakistan, members of Augusta's Pakistani community hope a local fundraiser will inspire more to give to the effort.

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Muslims pray at the Islamic Society of Augusta. Friday's prayers were for Ramadan, Islam's holy month, which began last week.   Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Muslims pray at the Islamic Society of Augusta. Friday's prayers were for Ramadan, Islam's holy month, which began last week.

A fifth of that country is underwater, and more than 20 million people have been displaced since monsoon season floods began in late July.

A goal of $50,000 to $100,000 was set this week, said Dr. Ahmad Gill, an oncologist in Aiken. He's spearheading fundraising efforts for the Islamic Society of Augusta.

The mosque has joined with the Pakistani American Cultural Association of Augusta to raise the money.

It's a reasonable goal, Gill said, considering how quickly the groups were able to raise $80,000 for victims of an earthquake in Pakistan in 2005.

"It was one day, all right here from the mosque," he said.

Members of the groups will meet Sunday to collect donations and plan fundraisers, said Dr. Ahsan Qadeer, the president of the Pakistani association.

He estimates that some 50 to 70 Pakistani families live in the area, many with relatives back home.

"My brother-in-law lost his home. We are all affected by this," said Qadeer, an anesthesiologist in Augusta.

A small handful of donations have come in, and Qadeer hopes that Ramadan, Islam's holy month, which began last week and emphasizes charitable giving, might inspire some to contribute to flood victims in Pakistan.

"The Pakistani community isn't large here, but there are a number of Muslims and we're all called to help," Qadeer said.

Imam Majed Sabke, of the Islamic Society of Augusta, says many of his members have already gotten involved and hope to host a fundraiser dinner at the end of Ramadan in September.

"We want to do anything to help. We helped in Haiti. We helped in Katrina," he said. "We have to respond."

Aid money thus far has helped the millions of Pakistanis now homeless after the flooding, but most estimates suggest billions more will be needed for long-term recovery.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he had never seen anything like the flood disaster. He had previously worked in Myanmar after a cyclone killed an estimated 138,000 in 2008. He also visited China when an earthquake killed almost 90,000 that same year.

The death toll in Pakistan is much lower -- about 1,600 -- but more than a fourth of the country has suffered, especially those in its agricultural heartland.

"The disaster is so big, so huge, but the death toll isn't, and so people don't understand the magnitude," Gill said.

He hopes people realize that means the need for ongoing aid in Pakistan is just as great, or greater, than that caused by other disasters.

While many more people died in Haiti's disaster than in Pakistan's, far fewer were displaced, requiring fewer shelters and less ongoing aid than is expected in Pakistan. An estimated 250,000 Haitians died and 1.5 million were displaced in January's earthquake.

"I was just reading the news. The magnitude of the destruction is just so vast," Qadeer said. "Imagine. A lot of the crops like wheat and rice are affected. And then, the water-borne illnesses. They might be common diseases, but in unhygienic conditions, and with the lack of medicine, they spread. This is a long-term problem."

How to help Pakistan

- Text "SWAT" to 50555 to give $10 to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which distributes tents, relief supplies and humanitarian aid.

- Text "FLOOD" to 27722 to donate $10 to the Pakistan Relief Fund created by the State Department. Learn more at state.gov/pakistanrelief

- Designate donations for Pakistan through the Augusta chapter of the American Red Cross at arcaug.org. Call (706) 724-8481.

- The Pakistan American Cultural Association of Augusta recommends one of these charities:

Human Development Foundation, yespakistan.com

The International Rescue Committee, theirc.org

Islamic Relief, irw.org

Oxfam, oxfamamerica.org

Pakistan Red Crescent Society, www.prcs.org.pk

Sarhad Rural Support Programme, srsp.org.pk

Behbud Foundation, behbud.org

EDHI Foundation, dhifoundation.com

Hidaya foundation, hidaya.org

The All Pakistan Women's Association, apwapakistan.com

LEARN MORE

The Pakistani American Cultural Association of Augusta will meet at 10 a.m. Sunday at the River Island Clubhouse, 1570 River Island Parkway in Evans, to collect donations. Learn more at pacausa.net.

Call the Islamic Society of Augusta at (706) 868-7278 or see isaugusta.com.

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