Written by Nita Bhalla
The public face of the emergency response in flood-hit Pakistan may be the international relief worker or Pakistani soldier, but officials say there are hundreds of thousands of ordinary people supporting the aid effort who should not be forgotten.
Pakistan's floods, which began over a month ago, have disrupted the lives of almost 21 million people, inundated hundreds of villages, destroyed crops and washed away roads from the country's far north to the deep south.
But while the army, United Nations and aid agencies are spearheading relief efforts, large numbers of Pakistanis are also giving up their time and money to help relieve the suffering of their peers.
"We estimate that there are hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis who have just informally volunteered since the floods began," said Muhammad Salahuddin, deputy director of the National Volunteer Movement, a government body set up to promote and organise volunteers.
"Most are doing it informally - many are providing aid like food and shelter, others are collecting donations. There are also many people who have given up their time to work in camps."
Judged to be the worst natural disaster in Pakistan's history, the scale of the flooding has overwhelmed authorities and aid workers who are trying to provide clean water, food and shelter to as many as eight million people.

Amid a lack of skilled manpower, logistical support and access to some flooded areas, ordinary Pakistanis - many of them also victims of the disaster - are trying to help bridge the gaps.

Individually or in groups, thousands across the country have been collecting food, clothes and other items, transporting the aid to affected regions and distributing it to displaced communities.
Doctors and nurses have helped treat those who have fallen ill. Teachers and students from flooded areas have been the largest group of volunteers, say aid workers, as lessons are suspended while schools are used as relief shelters.
In response to the scores of spontaneous settlements that have sprung up in recent weeks, British charity Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) is helping to train volunteers in basic camp management.
Activities covered include making and recording a register of camp residents, recognising vulnerable groups like pregnant women, the sick and the elderly, identifying needs, and organising and distributing aid.
"We value the work of foreign aid workers, but we feel local volunteers have an advantage as they can respond quickly, understand the culture and language, and offer immediate access to the community," said Afaq Ali, VSO's country director in Pakistan. "In a disaster-prone country like Pakistan, it is important to have a strong pool of trained local volunteers who can be mobilised quickly, as manpower is often the first thing that is needed."
Aid workers say the outpouring of public support at a time of national disaster is nothing new, but the scale on which volunteering happens in Pakistan time and time again is surprising to some.
"There is a strong feeling of giving and helping in Pakistani society, and this is evident in this crisis as well as before," said one U.N. worker.
"Last year, we saw thousands of families opening their doors to virtual strangers when millions fled violence in the northwest. Hundreds of thousands of people also came out to support victims in the earthquake in 2005."
Due to the overwhelming public response after the Kashmir earthquake, the government created the National Volunteer Movement to "formalise" the sector and create a database of names, skills and locations of people willing to be called on in the event of a disaster. The number registered has grown to over 17,000 in the last four years.
Volunteers are not only managing relief camps, but also helping communities assess damages to their homes and apply for compensation.
"We really feel that we are doing valuable work as there were no government officials here to help displaced people for the first ten days," said 35-year-old school teacher Niaz Hussain, who is helping run camps in Guddu town in Kashmore district.
Officials from the National Volunteer Movement, however, admit that with a meagre annual budget of $300,000, it has been difficult to launch mass awareness campaigns encouraging people to register officially. And the shortage of funds means only a fraction of volunteers have received some form of disaster training.
"If we could provide training to all our thousands of registered volunteers, can you imagine how effective Pakistan's humanitarian response could be in the aftermath
Source :http://members.alertnet.org/db/an_art/55867/2010/08/8-113414-1.htm
The risk is the combination of the probability of an event and its negative consequences.
Its been the 19th day we at Participatory Development Initiatives have almost build strong connections to flood survivors which have migrated in thousands to the main town of Shikarpur. From what it looks like, a sea of people in corners of streets, on barrages, inside government schools, hospitals, mosques and anywhere they could find a place to put the few of their belongings that were left with them.
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