Hundreds join effort to send aid to flood-ravaged Pakistan

Hundreds of volunteers gathered at The Shelter in Dubai last night to pack a second batch of food, clothes and medicine for flood-ravaged Pakistan.

DUBAI // Hundreds of volunteers gathered at The Shelter in Dubai last night to pack boxes full of food, clothes and medication bound for flood-ravaged Pakistan. They worked tirelessly to fill a 14-metre-long container that will be shipped off to Karachi by the end of the week. Over the weekend, more than 500 volunteers had turned up to pack thousands of boxes into a seven-metre-long container that was sent out last night.

The effort was part of the Pakistan Relief project, which is shipping rice, sugar, powdered milk, tinned food, medication, first aid and clothes to some of the 20 million people displaced by the floods. Kabul Wazir Mir, 32, a British Pakistani and the coordinator of the Dubai project, said he and a team of volunteers in the UAE had spent a week assessing the needs of the flood victims before mobilising their efforts.

"We were working with NGOs on the ground to find out what they needed most. Then we found a company to work with in Pakistan and finally put out a call for donations and volunteers." Some of the volunteers who poured into the converted warehouse in Dubai's Al Quoz area came to pack, create inventories and load boxes into the containers. Others came laden with bags full of food and medical supplies.

"Ramadan is not just about abstaining from food and water, it's about helping the poor and the needy," said Kinan Jarjous, a 25-year-old Syrian, as he packed medicine into cardboard boxes. "I couldn't just sit at home and know all those people were suffering. The people of Pakistan need us and that's why we're here." Jowita Szablowska, 35, from Poland, said she was there because she remembered when her home country was battered by heavy rains and flooding in 1997.

"It was horrible," she said. "We were all running around with buckets and sand bags trying to stop the city centre from getting devastated. I feel for the people in Pakistan, I know what it must be like." On Friday the UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon appealed for US$460 million (Dh1.7 billion) to provide immediate help, including food, shelter and clean water for those displaced by the floods. Medical supplies were also urgently needed because the risk of waterborne disease was rising.

Mr Wazir Mir and three others will follow the donations by plane and then travel over land to Peshawar, where they will coordinate the delivery of aid to people in the Swat Valley, one of the country's worst affected areas. "The most important thing is that people have confidence in what we are doing," said Tausif Ahmed, another of the four coordinators. "We have made sure we scrutinise everything and are completely transparent in how this operation is running. We will make sure it is delivered directly to the people who need it."

More volunteers, from India, Pakistan and the US, were busy packing cartons with clothes, food and medicine over at the Pakistan Association Dubai (PAD) in Oud Metha road yesterday. "Indians have also come forward to donate supplies - one gentleman gave us clothes, mattresses and blankets, another lady came forward with three cartons of medicines and a carton of diapers," said Samina Nazir, the principal of the Pakistani Islamia higher secondary school in Ajman and chairperson of PAD's education and personal development committee.