Pakistani aid group needs volunteers

Expatriate relief association is asking for people in Dubai to assist with sorting donated items for flood victims.

United Arab Emirates - Dubai - August 7, 2010.

NATIONAL: Volunteer Zahoor Uddin Khan (cq-al) lifts bags of clothing, medicines and non-perishable food items to send to the flood victims of Pakistan at the Pakistan Association Dubai on Saturday, August 7, 2010. The center is accepting donations from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Amy Leang/The National

DUBAI // Three containers loaded with tents, mattresses and food left Dubai last night for Pakistan, taking to six the number dispatched this week as desperately needed supplies make their way to the flood-stricken nation. The 40ft containers also carried biscuits, flour, rice, juice and blankets. About 1.5 tonnes of medicine will be sent on Pakistan International Airlines and AirBlue during the next two days.

Officials with the Pakistan Association Dubai (PAD) said having a roof of any kind was vital for the millions left homeless in two weeks of flooding that has killed 1,500 people. "It is like the end of the world for people there," said Inayat ur Rahman, PAD's acting general secretary. "There are millions and millions homeless and the rain has not stopped. Tents are badly needed because people have no shelter, their homes are completely destroyed." The organisation has collected Dh300,000 in cash for distribution in flood-hit areas. The UN has described the scale of the physical disaster - with 14 million people affected - as worse than that of the 2004 Asian tsunami.

Some two million people in the Dir and Chatral districts of north Pakistan and large parts of Swat were cut off, with little aid reaching them after floods destroyed 17 bridges. Pakistani expatriates in Dubai have pitched in with supplies and cash contributions during the past week. Candles, torches, plastic buckets, food, drinking water and filtration equipment remain on the priority list, Mr ur Rehman said. Pad has also appealed for more volunteers to help sort supplies.

"We need as many people as possible to come forward," he said. "Clothes need to be sorted out according to age and sex." Pad's work timings during Ramadan are from noon to midnight. Kevin Maher, who is from the US, his wife and a Pakistani colleague were among the few volunteers packing cartons on Wednesday morning at Pad's office in Bur Dubai on Oud Metha Road. "The piles are not moving quickly enough," he said. "They could use more volunteers. Ten to 20 people coming in for a couple of hours will clean it up."

Mr Maher, who works with the US telecommunications firm AT&T, and his wife, a professor at the American University in Dubai, said they volunteered after reading an appeal in The National. Iqbal Khalil, the director of the Lahore-based aid group Al-Khidmat, spent three days with about 1,000 volunteers distributing food, water and setting up water filtration plants in the northern Peshawar and Charasadda districts. He said the true nature of the disaster was only now unfolding.

"People are stuck on rooftops in Swat [province]," he said. "The army is trying to rescue them but the number of boats is too small. Millions are still stranded and help must reach them quickly." The United Nations and its partners in Pakistan will require close to US$460 million over the coming weeks to meet the humanitarian needs there, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said in a statement yesterday.