Pakistan, is ailing, but the situation would be worse, without the consistent work of NGO’s. In particular, Pakistan’s best kept secret, the Rural Support Programmes Network; the largest non-government network of Rural Support Programmes (RSPs); the real “alternative”.
Ten RSPs mobilize rural peoples on a self-help basis in areas of infrastructure, community financing, skills training and small enterprise. They work collectively in 105 districts and 2 federally administered tribal areas of the country’s 138 districts; This translates to 2.5 million households/ 20 million individuals in Pakistan. At the core is the ethos of Akhter Hameed Khan, put into action by his disciple Shoaib Sultan Khan.
The RSPs have been gathering their troops, utilizing their own resources, as they did during the 2005 earthquake. International agencies turn to them first in times like this. The connections forged with communities are strong, their knowledge of varying rural terrain, vast. With Rapid Assessment Reports created every few days,the sister RSP’s have launched tangible support with equal rapidity.
A mere sliver of the initial week one report from just the National Rural Support Programme (NRSP), one of the oldest RSPs, details emergency relief camps, 1409 patients treated in Free Medical Camp, ready- made foods, safe water, gas cylinders, protective clothing distributed to 13,711 individuals in district Charsaddah alone. Within the first week, partnering with the WFP, they provided additional high- energy food packages benefiting children to 6000 people in the Mardan area. Drinking water being a crucial concern, they orchestrated a visit from the Daikonie Assessment Team, who gave 20 water tanks and tap stands, installed by NRSP in the hardest hit districts. As an immediate response, NRSP initiated supplying cooked food to families on a daily basis and allocated 5 million within the first 24 hours. Besides meeting the minimum food requirement, “staff members try to control the spread of mass hysteria and motivate the affected towards positive thinking,” states a direct quote from a report.
The Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP), has made efforts in equal measure in their coverage area. At this juncture then, we can dare to hope that many in the flood-stricken areas are being taken care of and were even before the millions of dollars in aid were forthcoming. The latest report, from just the NRSP, for example, numbers the households receiving shelter, food items, livestock care, cash grants, medical aid, clothing and other non-food items at 376,973 up from 104,376 on August 9th in KPK & Punjab. None of the RSPs’ efforts are limited to distribution; they extend to every avenue including “all staff and vehicles,” being “reassigned to emergency rescue and rapid assessment activities”.
Yet another arm of RSPN, the Sindh Rural Support Organization (SRSO), working closely with the Sindh government has mobilized parallel emergency efforts which include vaccination and deworming of livestock, initially allocating Rs. 300,000 for this, and now have pledged 20 million ruppees of their own resources. To date, they have distributed cooked and dried ration to 365,423 individuals and 308,231 individuals, respectively, and treated 209,428 patients. In partnership with the WFP, a food drive is targetting the supply of food to 42,000 households for thirty days comprising wheat and cooking oil (50kg 4.5 kg respectively) per household. Amongst a large number of initiatives, a project of UNICEF “WASH for flood affectees” has been started where Latrines, Hand Pumps and 1,800 Hygiene kits have been provided and sessions of the affected communities are being conducted in order to aware them regarding health and hygiene issues for Kashmore, Sukkur and Khairpur districts. These are but a few of the relief projects underway. Sadly, the number of casualties has been growing exponentially but fortunately so has the number of the RSP’s beneficiaries.
With all our emphasis on the shortcomings of Pakistan, what is “not” getting done, and the semblance that no-one cares, it is easy to lose sight of what is being done and by whom.
Horrific stories mount yearly of war, natural disaster, recession and brutality. Someone once said to me that the only reason the world has not been completely destroyed, is that somewhere, a balance is being maintained by the silent & the good. These are the people really making a difference, one bori of atta, one litre of drinking water at a time. Most significantly, they have the trust and confidence of not just the people, but of the United Nations whose Under- Secretary General Mr. Achim Steiner donated his prize money of US $ 65,000 which he received on August 29th from the prestigious Tall Berg Foundation to Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) for the ongoing Flood Relief Operation in KPK. “SRSP will live up to the trust placed in it by Mr Steiner and make sure that the contribution makes a difference to the lives of the people it is meant for.”
For more information about the relief work being done, to read the reports for yourself or to donate, please visit: