Given all of the awful events in Pakistan (Taliban-esque terror attacks and floods that have displaced millions) and the amazingly stupid things (such as that whack-job “pastor” in Florida who wants to burn the Quran, the Moslem holy book, as some kind of publicity stunt) I contacted Revelstoke resident Anna Young who is currently working for the World Food Program in that country. Here’s what she had to say about life there:
I hope this finds you well and reveling in the onset of fall.
I thought I would put a quick group email together to let you know how things are going in Pakistan. As always I would love to hear from you and I will absolutely write back when I get minute.
We are currently in hotel ‘lockdown’ for the three-day weekend of Eid (the end of Ramadan) and as a precaution because of that nut job in Florida who was threatening to burn the Quran.
I am working with the Logistics Cluster, World Food Programme as I was in Kyrgyzstan. I now realise that Kyrgyzstan was a walk in the park and training ground for my time in Pakistan.
I am working out of a town called Multan in, Punjab Province and for the first two weeks I was the only cluster staff member. Just sitting here writing this I can’t even remember how I actually managed to keep things together then. What needed to be done was pretty huge and the number of hours in bed short but I kept that wonderful Julia saying – “you just do what you can when you can” running through my head. There were many times when I felt out of my depth and seriously daunted by what I had to do. Thank goodness, there is now a jovial, chain smoking Englishman that has joined me.
They now use a cluster approach in emergencies so relief agencies don’t overlap. So for instance the health cluster is lead by WHO and the shelter/NFI (non-food items) cluster is led by IOM (International Organisation for Migration).
WFP leads the Logistics Cluster and our job basically is to support all the other NGO’s and UN agencies with their logistics operations. We have
established a warehouse for folks to use which is full of tents, kitchen sets, medical supplies, water purification units, shelter kits and all manner of other things from UNICEF, WHO (World Health Organisation) and IOM (International Organisation for Migration). We are also now operating heli flights into remote areas with the military helis, UAE Chinooks and now our own UNHAS (UN aerial service).
Days are filled with putting out fires — there is no room in the warehouse, the pilots can’t find the heli pad, that 4000-kg of ready-to-eat peanut paste (no warning about nuts around here!) has been picked up by the wrong NGO, we just found 13,000 people that aren’t getting access to food, shelter items etc – how do we get it to them?, I need a forklift now to unload these generators —it is dynamic and crazy but I am really enjoying it.
Thankfully there are a couple of funny fellas here from UNHAS and at night we debrief and howl with laughter about the circus of a day we have had.
I also have to attend a lot of meetings with the other cluster coordinators, govt and all the logistics guys from the other agencies. The lead clusters here are food, health, shelter/nfi’s (non-food items) and WASH (water and sanitation) and every two days we sit down and compare notes, see what areas are not being covered and exchange information.
It is pretty amazing to be part of this huge relief campaign and what will be a long and difficult recovery period for Pakistan.
Anna Young is a Revelstoke resident who is currently working for the World Food Program in Pakistan