Entire villages have been submerged by catastrophic floods in Pakistan, killing hundreds and causing millions more suffering.
“I am completely shocked by the devastation I am witnessing and the destruction left in the flood’s wake,” said Burlington-based Aysha Syed, director of fundraising for Burlington-based Islamic Relief Canada, who is on the ground in Pakistan where “unprecedented heavyweight monsoons” have killed 1,136 people to date and affected more than 33 million.
“All I saw for miles and miles was water and the damage it left behind.”
As she walked through the devastation, Syed said the floods had not only destroyed homes, but also roads and bridges, killed livestock and ruined crops.
“I spoke to families who had only two to three hours to gather their belongings and flee for their lives before the floodwaters arrived. It is a heartbreaking reality that not only do people need immediate help, but they have nowhere to return after the water levels drop,” she said.
One in seven Pakistanis is now suffering from one of the worst weather disasters the country has ever seen, and the death toll is set to rise, according to the IRC. The team is on the ground to assess flood damage and assist with aid distribution efforts.
So far they have reached more than 25,000 people with tents, food, water, cash, hygiene kits and other life-saving aid, Syed said.
“I have just visited the town of Nowshera in KPK (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in northwestern Pakistan), where the community has been badly affected by floods. The situation is expected to worsen over the next few days with more monsoon rains expected to increase flooding. There are already outbreaks of water-borne diseases and food is running out in local markets.
Syed was initially in Pakistan to help with a fundraising effort, but was “immediately rerouted and dispatched to assist with flood relief efforts”.
“My Canadian team and I visited areas of the KPK that are affected by flooding, assessing flood damage and assisting with aid distribution efforts,” Syed said.
Although humanitarian aid is finally arriving, she said more international aid was urgently needed to respond to Pakistan’s worst floods in living memory.
“People are in desperate situations and struggling to survive, not knowing how they will feed themselves and their children. I saw hundreds of families queuing along the main roads hoping to get some help. I urge Canadians to help in any way possible.
Along with the need to show humanity and compassion to other human beings, residents of Burlington as well as all Canadians should be aware that this could easily happen in this country as well, Syed said.
“As Pakistan is the fifth most affected country in the world by climate change, as (it) starts to get worse, our backyards will also feel the heat.”
Canada’s own experiences have proven the devastation that climate change can wreak – from wildfires to flooding, she said.
“Climate change is upon us, and unless we act quickly to respond, we will all face environmental disasters.”
Government action is essential as climate change exacerbates the severity and frequency of natural disasters, Syed said.
“Pakistan produces less than one percent of the global carbon footprint, yet its people are bearing the brunt of global climate change. This is as much a Canadian issue as any. As an industrialized country, we have an essential role to play in addressing the climate emergency to ensure the collective well-being of our planet and its future.
To donate to IRC efforts, visit https://www.islamicreliefcanada.org/