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U.S. Government Advice on Pakistani Aid

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Klamath Falls, OR–August 20th–This article is directed toward American Muslims and especially Pakistani Americans on the District of Columbia’ attitude towards aid, which has been considerable, to Islamabad for the floods, and how Pakistan’s and others can most effectively react to the tragedy.

Coming up here and back to the (San Francisco) Bay Area, my wife and had to endure two twelve- hour red-eye train trips.  I actually, slept better on the rails than I have been doing recently at home!  Derailing, I studied the general documents enclosed with the letter from the Central government’s USAID, a sub-“Department” within the U.S. State Department from which I created filler on current Pakistan’s natural disaster last week.  It asked me for help in contacting the Pakistani and larger Muslim communities for help and support and advice on the dreadful floods afflicting Karachi’s hinterlands.  This week I would like to examine these documents to see how they apply to Muslims in America and elsewhere, and may help us better help the Islamic nation of Pakistan horrible tragic situation.

In a short general article on disaster relief in the Washington Post by an Ananda Shorey dated August 28 2001, the Associated Press writer points out that “[well-meaning, but untrained] people [can] hinder relief efforts in…attempts to help.”  Further, into the article he quotes, a relief worker, Neil Frame, “Appropriate giving is a minefield …You don’t want your disaster response to be part of the disaster.”  Something that is emphasized throughout the papers I was given is cash is best because the disaster districts urgently call for an economic boost.  Providing the cash flow that the victims desperately require will allow the bankrupt merchant class to sell goods and to give employment to labor made destitute.   This is very true for Pakistan today.  Aid groups – governmental and NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) – should work closely with their South Asiaian counterparts, for they are very good NGOs in the provinces devastated, and outside relief groups should co-ordinate with them, for they know their near neighbors best – their unique culture, languages and their long-established long-established tribulations.  If you are knowledgeable, giving aid donations to local groups directly, provided that you are familiar with them, and can trust them to handle your money well – it is probably the best to commit to them directly.  There is also, the question of their (U.S) IRS (Internal Revenue Service) status as foreign entities.  It might be more effective to give to their American branches if they exist; so, you can save more at tax time.  This can create the time-honored advantage of being able to give more next year if there still is a need, and is a type of stewardship, but most importantly, it is Ramadan where the Zakat is engendered of all faithful Muslims!

If you are unfamiliar with the culture of Pakistan, please do not send food for Muslims consume Halal (much like the Jewish Kosher that most people in Western culture are familiar).  The Center for International Disaster relief (CIDI) –   contact at di@cidi.org ; telephone –  1-(703)276-1914 (hotline) –  was established by a perpetual grant from the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance in 1988, and provides information to the public at large and advice to the Washington on its relief efforts.  If you are anxious over the fate of a relative, general information can be obtained at the State Department’s website – www.state.gov, if it is not on the web, you can call States’ Office of Consular Affairs for immediate assistance on the status of your in relative in the water ravaged area, but check the website first, for the facts and information you must have before you call the Office of Consular Affairs at (202) 647-5225.

Those who volunteer their services should have at least ten years of experience in catastrophe assistance.  Frank Grove, writing for the Knight Ridder newspaper confirms that “…disaster experts say …sorting and distributing unsolicited [material] donations…occupies…half of… [the] volunteer[s’]” time.

The government of the States urges anyone not to go there individually unless invited (with the exception of having family in the affected zone).  Roy Williams Director of Foreign Disaster during the Honduran Hurricane crisis said, “…We (the U.S.)…have the capacities to generate donated material on a huge scale…but we don’t have the ability to distribute [the] volume… at the other end…”  Frank Grove in his article, “Relief Fiasco,” pointed out the dramatic (inflated) cost of staples in the United States versus the misfortunate neighborhoods in Pakistan is stunning.


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