As I stood on the tarmac in Islamabad yesterday, waiting for the U.S. Air Force Reserve aircraft that would take me to the flood-ravaged southern part of Pakistan, I saw a large group of Pakistani men loading up boxes marked with the USAID brand mark into a local “jingle” truck.
I walked over to the group and met with Major Murdeza who had just joined an international organization. He told me that these trucks were bound for Multan, carrying 1,600 rolls of plastic sheeting that will help provide shelter for flood-affected families.
The plane I was on was also carrying much-needed US aid materials to the city of Sukkur. I visited two camps there run by USAID partner organizations. There I listened to the stories of immeasurable loss. I met women who had lost every last possession. They were unsure of how they would take care of their children. And I met a man still jolted by the tragedy of losing a child due to the historic floods.
As I stared at the swollen Indus River, it only reaffirmed the need to renew our commitment to the people of Pakistan. With each passing day, as disease and hunger threaten and supply and aid routes remain cut off, the breadth of the destruction affecting millions of people only grows.
Yesterday, I announced a commitment by the U.S. Government to redirect $50 million for early recovery efforts from funds provided by Congress last month. The additional funding will support early recovery programs, such as rehabilitation of community infrastructure and livelihood recovery activities, and was authorized under the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, known as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act. This funding will go a long way in helping Pakistan start to rebuild and heal in the wake of so much loss.
Where our goal was once to improve a water system, we now must help reconstruct it. Power stations that, just a month ago, needed fine tuning to operate more efficiently must be fixed to become operational again. But in spite of the obstacles, we are making progress. We are feeding 1.8 million people per day and we have curtailed the potentially devastating threat of a large outbreak of waterborne illness because of our previous efforts to implement a disease early warning system (or DEWS). Focused efforts of this kind speak to our long and productive history in Pakistan.
With the help of the international community, we must now double those efforts to help minimize further hardship and pain in what has already proved the worst natural disaster in the country’s history. I know this crisis is far from over. I’ve seen the suffering of the Pakistani people. But I am convinced that the work we have done, and the work we continue to do in Pakistan, will be some of our most important efforts for years to come.