The floods in Pakistan have caused devastation of an unprecedented scale. A huge swath of the country is submerged under water and we are seeing millions of people suffering. The number of people impacted is of a scale not seen before.
The world is watching, learning more, and realizing the scope and enormity of the problems caused by the seemingly ceaseless rains. UN Secretary General Ban KI Moon has described the devastation as something he has never seen before. Many organizations in the relief and development community are bracing for another disaster to unfold due to lack of food, drinking water and safe places for people. There is not yet as high a toll on human life as there was earlier this year in Haiti, but if disease begins to spread rapidly the consequences may be much more severe.
"Tens of thousands of Pakistanis displaced by the floods are now infected by water borne illnesses, like the potentially fatal cholera" - Jim Sciutto of ABC News reported from the flood zone, highlighting the new danger facing the already battered nation.
News agencies are now starting to report out on the disaster that continues to unfold around them. The calls for help are getting louder. In Pakistan, many in the middle class are taking matters in their own hands to deliver relief to people in need wherever they can. Five of our employees in the Microsoft office in Islamabad jumped in to help by collecting food, supplies and quickly raising funds to acquire supplies. Driving a truck they set out for Nowshera, a town one hour northwest of Islamabad, but closed roads and mud turned it into a three-hour trip. About 15,000 people had taken shelter on high ground there, and the employees enlisted help from some of the town's elders to distribute the boxes of supplies. What they saw and experienced was shocking: there was complete and utter devastation; there are hundreds of similar stories where ordinary people - doctors, office workers, and other professionals - are setting out to provide help where no help is coming from elsewhere.
The rains continue and flooding has not yet receded. The impact is now being felt beyond the north-south band in the center of the country which is flooded. The country's main oil refinery is flooded, and power plants have been forced to shut down. There is no fuel or electricity in flooded areas, and bigger cities now have a daily six-hour blackout to conserve energy.
The international community and all of us must step up now and help. Aid response has been slower than previous incidents as the enormity of the tragedy is just now becoming clearer.
At Microsoft, our employees in Pakistan and around the world are stepping up to help out: Microsoft and its employees have donated over $300,000 to relief organizations doing work in Pakistan.
The U.S. State Department has announced a Pakistan Fund to which people can donate you can find about the text 'SWAT' to 50555" campaign here. Mercy Corps and International Rescue Committee are two organizations that have a long history and strong presence in Pakistan. The Pakistani community in America has also stepped up and is trying to mobilize support.
If you are looking for organizations facilitating aid response, www.pakistaniat.com has a list of organizations that are undertaking relief efforts in Pakistan.
As the suffering of millions continue, a sustained effort is needed by the international community and global citizens are needed to raise public awareness and help rebuild the lives of flood victims, particularly the millions in need of immediate humanitarian aid.