The past few days, I've been reading countless news articles about rescue workers tentatively forging into mountainous areas, into villages that have been cut off from any sort of relief for days following the earthquake, hoping to ease the suffering of those who have survived but being confronted only with devastating destruction and the sickly sweet stench of rotting corpses. I've read about villages that are eerily empty of children, about feeble elderly people who - in a cruel twist of fate - outlived the earthquake even as their children and grandchildren perished, about angry survivors who feel betrayed by the lack of aid in their areas. Survivors who've been sleeping outdoors for days, who can already see the snow on their mountains as winter begins to set in. I obsessively hit refresh on news websites throughout the day, checking for updates about the aftermath of the earthquake. I've watched dozens of sobering video clips. The photographs just get worse.
Every afternoon, my mother asks me, "Is there any news?" and I know instinctively what she is referring to, because, let's face it, most of the time we don't really care about the news unless it affects us directly, unless it is about people from our motherland, unless the reporters interview and the photographs depict people who look like us. Yesterday, I went to the grocery store, and, just before I walked in, I made a sudden beeline for the shopping carts by the newstands, even though I needed only a few items and a basket procured from inside would have been enough. What I really wanted to see was if there were any above-the-fold articles about the South Asian earthquake at the newstands. Of course there were, enough headlines to get me sufficiently teary-eyed before I continued indoors to finish shopping for groceries and supplies I've never had to beg for.
While Pakistan childishly bickers over whether or not India has really been crossing over the Line of Control in disputed Kashmir to provide relief and aid (God forbid that the two nations should even think of helping one another), there are still remote mountainous areas that are cut off from aid, forgotten villages whose remaining inhabitants have been left to fend for themselves, and survivors who "take their quota of relief rice to a wet rocky patch wondering where to cook it" because they have no fire or utensils at their disposal.
I am reminded of part of a piece I wrote in January, in response to the Asian tsunami:
.It's all heartbreaking, but, really, the earthquake survivors don't need my tears. Lord knows they must have more than enough of their own. What they do need is food and shelter and medical supplies, and money to ensure that they get all those things. News sources talk about compassion fatigue and donor fatigue. I hope this is not true of all you people reading this, because we don't have jack to be fatigued about. So scroll down and check the links below. As Hemlock said, "For those of us who can turn to our beds and sleep in comfort, I want to know how we can look ourselves in the eye."
Like you, I watched the aftermath of
That tsunami thing on television.
Like you, I watched the faces of the people
Dazed and broken,
Shell-shocked and shattered.
What do you do when your world
Literally falls down in ruins
What you do is this:
You scrabble in the cold, hard ground
And lift out chunks of dirt
To dig graves with your hands
To bury your children.
You pray that the vast world beyond your boundaries
Will be watchful and compassionate enough
To ensure that you receive
Clean water and medicine.
And food, too, yes, food.
But you can't help but weep
In irony, in frustration,
When they send you endless bags of rice
And you have no clean water with which
To wash and boil the rice in.
And what you do is this:
You close the gaping eyes of your loved ones
And cover their faces with shrouds
And step back to watch as they
Fill the mass graves of victims of
That tsunami thing.
And you whisper fervent prayers over the bodies
Because you so desperately want to believe
That there was a reason for all this,
That God was not absent
From the world the day
The waters rose up in walls,
Only to leave behind the horror and stench of decaying bodies
And vestiges of colorful rags
And empty, flattened villages
In the wake of that tsunami thing.
Again, RESOURCES & things to read:
Quake survivors answer BBC readers' questions
Hemlock has posted a list of supplies that the NGOs are specifically asking for.
Baji has the following post for October 12, 2005 [The donations through APPNA are indeed tax deductible]:
The Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America, APPNA, has set up an emergency disaster relief fund for the victims of the earthquake. You can call in your donation by credit card or send in your checks to their office. If you want to fax, you can use this donation form. APPNA is 501 C3 organizations. All donations may be tax deductible as permitted by law.Danial, a reader of this weblog, emailed me with the following info [Thank you]:
A P P N A
6414 S. Cass Avenue
Westmont, IL 60559
Phone: 630-968-8585 or 630-968-8606
"I just wanted to bring to your attention the need for tents in the earthquake hit areas. We are not able to purchase tents here in Lahore anymore and there is still a dire need for them. So please get people to ship tents over to Pakistan. Apparently, PIA is willing to ship donated goods over to Pakistan free of cost."The document Danial attached explains that "3-5 million people have been left homeless and at least 200,000 tents are required, there ARE NO MORE TENTS IN PAKISTAN, ALL THAT WERE AVAILABLE HAVE BEEN SHIPPED TO NORTH. Please send as many tents (preferably waterproof, winterized) as you can. People abroad don't even know that Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has decided to carry all donations from any of its stations wordwide for free."
I know you like the word "free." Find your nearest PIA station on the list of PIA's worldwide Stations by Countries, and here is the list of PIA's booking offices around the world, alphabetized by cities (see N for New York, C for Chicago, F for Frankfurt, D for Dusseldorf etc.). For more info, please contact Waqas Usman: waqasusman AT gmail DOT com, (Mobile) 92-321-4060186.
avari/nameh has also posted several links for relief and aid.
And, again, Chai is collecting donations for blankets and tents. Every little bit counts, especially considering that one American dollar is worth so many Pakistani rupees.
Blogistan's very own lovely GrouchyOwl is in Pakistan, covering the aftermath of the earthquake for her newspaper. Wishing her much strength, steadiness, and safety.
[I know I've been going massively link-crazy lately, but this is the only way I can remind myself, and make it personal for myself. Add thoughts and ideas and links to the comment box if I'm missing anything. Thanks much.]