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Millions disappear beneath the current

Such is the cycle of crises in Pakistan that citizens have become inured to tragedy being elbowed from the headlines by horror. One outrage follows another in the grim progression of this country's tale. That this process has not quite left the public entirely desensitised is evident in the storm of protest that has erupted after the murder attempt on Malala Yousufzai.



But the flurry of rapidly changing headlines also means that we are fixated by "the immediate" - issues or tragedies are rarely resolved or addressed, they merely drop out of the collective consciousness. Nowhere is this pattern more evident than in the situation faced by nearly five million people in parts of Sindh and Balochistan that were hit by devastating floods just weeks ago, some of them for the third year in a row. While they remain in desperate need, as far as the public as a whole is concerned they have been rendered faceless and voiceless, and thus there is hardly any pressure on either state or society to intervene in a meaningful fashion.

Their plight is desperate indeed. According to the World Food Programme, over a million people in the five worst-affected districts are in need of food assistance, while hundreds of thousands of people are living either in temporary camps or simply under tarpaulins, waiting for the waters to subside. As the UN launched an appeal for donations over the weekend, its Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that in some areas people are still being rescued by boat. And even after the waters recede, most of these people will need assistance to rebuild devastated lives and livelihoods, given that with some 3,800 square kilometres of land still flooded, the prospects for planting the Rabi crop (which is sown in winter) look remote. The focus needs to return to these silent millions, and efforts stepped up to allay their misery. Reportedly, the main challenges to expanding the response are funding gaps and access. While the average citizen can perhaps not do much about the latter, surely the former is within control.


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