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Over the past decade, the world, in general, and Pakistan specifically, witnessed several natural calamities, whereby millions of people have suffered immeasurable loss of life, livelihood, and livestock. Pakistan has been struck by two major earthquakes, several floods, and a drought that have left huge populations displaced and debilitated, exposed to the elements.

In addition to this, millions have had to abandon their hearth and home due to terrorism that has swept through the country. These disasters have required the government, international humanitarian organisations, the Pakistan army, and citizens of the country to work together to provide some relief, respite, and rehabilitation to the affectees.

The Dawood Foundation has, during this time, been active in distributing relief goods to the affected populations. Funds were collected, relief goods procured and, with the help of the army, distributed to those in need. Volunteers from the associated companies of the Dawood Hercules Group, along with students of the school, have worked together to prepare relief packages for their fellow nationals. Special assistance and support focused on the malnutritioned women and children has also been provided.

Brig. (R) M. Akram Khan is the representative of The Dawood Foundation (TDF) in the field and is invariably amongst the first to reach the affected area with consignments of relief items sent by the Foundation. Brig. Akram Khan served in the Pakistan Army for 33 years and retired as a Brigadier. He was critically wounded in 1971 War, and was bestowed awards for gallantry- Taghma-e-Basalat and the Sitara-e-Basalat. He led a number of successful mountaineering expeditions to the 8,000-metres peaks of the Himalayas. He was the first Pakistani to set foot on Antarctica and, in 1991, helped his country’s scientists establish a Research Station on the East Coast of that Continent. His knowledge and skill in survival enabled him to rescue and evacuate victims on a number of occasions during disasters and in accidents on high mountains. His services were duly recognised and he is a recipient of Awards by Italy ( Ordine Della Stella Della Solidarieta’ Italiana ) and France ( Medaille de la Defense Nationale ).

But Akram Khan is not known for the military rank that he wore nor for the gallantry and civil awards that he has received and not even for the number of expeditions he led; he is famous as a genuine, true and indubitable volunteer who reaches out to people hit by crises and disasters. Known for the humane attributes that he possesses in such abundance, his peers find him exceptionally articulate and describe his skills in handling devastating situations as remarkable. During most calamities in Pakistan, Akram Khan is at the centre of relief efforts. The accounts given below are his memories of the relief efforts.

Rehabilitation Of Thar Blaze Affectees

The erupted fire burnt over 250 houses into ashes and left over 175 families shelterless in a small village of Udani in Tharparkar. Fortunately, no human casualty was reported. However, the fire burned cattle, jewelry, and cash that was necessary for the survival of these families.

Thar Foundation, with the support of Engro Powergen companies, Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company, and The Dawood Foundation took upon the task of assisting their fellow humans by helping them rebuild their lives. Engineers worked day and night to rebuild the village for victims of Udani fire by providing tents, food, and clean drinking water.

Thar Foundation is vigorously working for the rehabilitation of the villagers to bring them back to daily life. Donations are being collected to assist in building Chaura/one room, purchase household stuff, and petty cash for day-to-day use.

Helping Drought Affectees

Thar is the world’s 17th Largest Desert and the world’s 9th largest subtropical desert with an annual Rainfall barometer of approximately 100 mm. The region heavily depends on annual rainfall to accumulate water for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, since 2012, Thar has been famine leading to numerous deaths and medical complexities amongst residents.

Noor Bibi is one of the victims of draught. She describes the ordeal she had to face at the birth of her first child that miraculously survived. Like many in the region, Noor Bibi has to face the consequences of the lack of health facilities in Thar.

The Dawood Foundation, along with other NGOs and philanthropists, realized the dire need to step up and devise ways to provide sustainable solutions to the people of Thar. A collaborative effort with World Food Programme was initiated to create health facilities, wells, and model villages across Thar.

The areas covered included isolated areas like Thario Helipoto, Bitra, and Aban Lanjo. These areas are as far as 10KM away from the metalled road. Over 900 families, in the vicinity of Thar Block II, were provided with sugar, rice, porridge, suji, milk, ORS, mineral water, and mosquito repellent. Pakistan Rangers assisted TDF to ensure that relief packets go to the most deserving families.

Helping Flood Affectees

Starting from Swat in the North, the Foundation provided relief to affectees of Nowshera, whose homes and crop fields were washed away by the overflowing Kabul River. The Foundation’s team had hardly finished its activities at Nowshera when the call came from South Punjab that districts of Jhang, Layah and Multan were affected too. Later, several parties sent from the Foundation returned to Swat with construction material, cement, and corrugated roof sheets.

Truckloads of relief items were sent from Lahore and Rawalpindi for distribution on the East bank of River Indus. The Foundation also helped in evacuating women and children to higher grounds before their villages submerged in the gushing floodwater.

TDF team remained deployed in the area of Layah and Kot Addu for three weeks. The same team was then shifted to Sindh when floods had reached Thatta where they were joined by other parties like Helping Hands, NRSP, and PPAF. The Dawood Foundation established a number of relief camps around Thatta and provided round the clock relief and comfort services to the affectees.

The monsoon of 2010 brought exceptionally heavy rainfalls that resulted in massive floods throughout the country, causing large-scale destruction in all the four provinces. The floods hit Southern Balochistan in late June, followed by a second heavy spell of rains in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Punjab and Sindh were hit next. At least 1,400,000 acres of cropland were destroyed and the magnitude was gauged to be far greater than the earthquake of 2005.

The Dawood Foundation undertook well-thought relief efforts after undertaking necessary visits and surveys. Substantial funds were allocated for relief activities, but considering the vastness of destruction, the amount was multiplied to cater more victims. The Foundation provided food, medicines, tents, and above all moral support to the victims. After carefully assessing the circumstances of the affectees, it was decided that 30% of relief would be spent on relief work, while 70% would be invested in rehabilitation.

IDPs Crisis Of 2009s

The 2009 IDP crisis consisted of massive displacement of civilians from Swat and Bunair, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which occurred as a result of operation Rah-e-Rast. Large military troops were deployed in early 2009 to reclaim Buner, Lower Dir, Swat and Shangla districts from the insurgents. Widespread destruction, turmoil, blasts, and shelling had engulfed the conflict-torn province. Gul Khan*, a 55-year-old lady, had no option but to leave her home in Swat. She was wounded and needed shelter. But Khan was not the only one. Over 1.2 million people were displaced in NWFP, joined by an additional 555,000, who were uprooted in 2008. We endeavoured to help the IDPs by immediately providing them thousands of tents for shelter, especially to the women who had fled alone, like Khan. Many of them were very scared to venture out of their tents alone, due to fear of molestation; therefore our team ensured they were provided with food and medicines in their tents. We distributed loads of toys, colouring books and pencils amongst the children and gave plenty of sports items to the teenagers. These brought smiles to their faces as they now had something to play to with and use their time productively. Female members of our team visited the camps regularly and spent time with the female refugees, listening to their problems as well as counseling and consoling them. The Foundation donated approximately PKR 3.5 million to help the affectees. *Name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual.

Swat Insurgency Of 2008

“Strange men took over our homes and schools. They forced all the girls out of school and destroyed it, saying Islam prohibits females from acquiring education,” cried Mala*, 12. She was once a fifth-grader in a local school of Khwzakhela, which had now been demolished by the militants. The insurgents seized control of District Swat in late 2007 and early 2008 trying to impose their version of Sharia law in the valley, thwarting women’s education specifically. Troops were deployed and charged to combat the rebels, which compelled the natives to abandon their home and hearth temporarily. Refugees sought shelter in the surrounding villages and metropolitans. Mala and her family took shelter in the tattered tents, erected for the Internally Displaced People (IDPs). Many other families like hers were quite disturbed too, deprived of basic surviving essentials like shelter, clothes, and food. We endeavored to help Mala’s and other people’s families by providing them relief goods like food items, tents and clothes worth PKR 1.2 million. We distributed heaps of storybooks, drawing books, pencils, and pens amongst the children especially girls, hoping they could continue to read and write in the camps, while military cleared their homes of the militants. “Thank you for providing us these books. We can now read and draw in our spare time,” said Mala, with a beautiful smile. Besides this, our team also discussed the importance of female education with the refugees’ tribal heads, who sounded very determined, and said they would send their daughters to schools once again, as soon as they would be rehabilitated. *Name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual.

Earthquake In Balochistan, 2008

Salma* was preparing for her due date when the deadly earthquake struck. Seven districts of Balochistan, the largest of the four provinces of Pakistan, experienced a major earthquake of 6.4 magnitude on October 29, 2008, followed by another shallower quake. More than 215 people died, 200 plus were injured, leaving approximately 120,000 homeless. We knew the fast approaching winters would make it difficult for the homeless to survive under open skies. Therefore, we immediately dispatched 13000 quilts, 13000 khes, and 13000 blankets for the sufferers via Sibi, as transit from Punjab was difficult due to weather.

Meanwhile, Salma, a ruralite in Pishin had survived the calamity but was in immense pain. Her family had brought her out of the crumbling house, but had gotten extremely worried when they couldn’t find any vehicle to transport her to the hospital.

One of our female team members came to know about Salma’s health through other relief workers. She went where Salma was resting and offered to take the mother-to-be to the hospital in her personal car. They reached the clinic just in time and Salma was able to deliver her baby safely under the supervision of trained medical staff. Also, we noticed that the children were extremely distressed – they either crouched in corners, feeling scared and lonely, or babbled loudly to attract attention. Therefore, we tried to help them overcome the shock, by distributing more than 1200 toys and games, which brought bright smiles on their youthful faces.Young girls of Dawood Public School, who deeply felt for their brothers and sisters in Balochistan, had donated these toys.*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual.

Earthquake In Kashmir, 2005

Things had changed for the worse for the natives of Districts Kohistan, Mansehra and Muzaffarabad -Azad Kashmir when a devastating earthquake of 8.2 magnitude was centered around Balakot and Garhi Habibullah. It badly affected Alai Valley in Kohistan, Balakot in Mansehra, Muzaffarabad, and Bagh in Azad Kashmir with almost 70% casualties. Shattered houses, the stench of death, and the screams of the wounded had engulfed areas that were once known for their scenic beauty and were the heart of tourism.

The Dawood Foundation (TDF) dispatched thousands of tents, blankets, medicines, rice, flour, milk powder, water, cooking oil, warm fabrics, and coffin cloth to the affected areas. The relief contribution increased further considerably on the receipt of more requests from Army Relief Centers established for the purpose. Foundation’s members knew that affectees needed more than mere physical assistance. They needed post-disaster counseling and rehabilitation too.

A member of the Foundation had immediately begun counseling the affectees who were flown to hospitals in Lahore while others continued to work in North. Aslam*, who owned a small business in Muzzafarabad, received continuous counseling sessions in Lahore, but his cognitive abilities kept deteriorating, as he feared losing his family members since he had no news of them. He had even forgotten the names of his children.

Aslam was found missing from his hospital bed when the Foundation’s representative went to see him one evening. He was too weak to walk and talk but was still all by himself. She sent Aslam’s picture to the Foundation’s worker in Islamabad and requested him to locate Aslam at Rawalpindi or Muzaffarabad Bus Stand. As luck would have it, he was spotted the moment he got down from a bus at Mazaffarabad the next morning. The Foundation helped him in tracing surviving members of his family and later provided assistance in rehabilitation.

Witnessing the effects and importance of post-disaster counselling and relief efforts, the Foundation contributed further in establishing a village of tents on the outskirts Mansehra. It accommodated more than four hundred families and catered for utilities like latrines and washing area. There were additional demands of bedsheets from hospitals and relief camps, which were immediately dispatched from the DH Plant site, Sheikhupura.

International Disaster Relief Activities

At The Dawood Foundation, we believe that philanthropy and kindness knows no borders, no boundaries, and no limits. We stand by people in their hour of need and distress. We have manifested compassion, empathy, and solidarity not only in Pakistan, but towards humanity in general, helping those affected by disasters and calamities in other countries.

Cyclone Sidr In Bangladesh, 2007

Cyclone Sidr resulted in one of the worst natural disasters in Bangladesh. The storm formed in the central Bay of Bengal and quickly strengthened, causing immense destruction.

We made a humble donation of ten thousand hospital bed sheets immediately to provide some relief to the cyclone affectees.

Tsunami In Indonesia And Sri Lanka, 2005

A Tsunami occurred in early January 2005 off the west coast of Northern Sumatra, Indonesia and was even felt quite strongly in Sri Lanka. It claimed approximately 1300 lives, mostly on the island of Nias.

We were extremely shocked and grieved over the tragic loss of lives and properties in the two Pak-friendly countries. As a token of love and affection, we donated PKR 3.5 million to the Indonesian Embassy in Islamabad, while medical supplies worth PKR 1.5 million were handed over to Sri Lankan High Commissioner.