Did anyone watch “Four Corners” on the ABC tonight? (Tonight being Monday 13th September). We had just finished dinner, Ken was on the phone to a friend, discussing new mobile phones, and I was sitting at the kitchen table with my second cup of tea. “Four Corners” came on the t.v., and for the next hour, I was glued to the screen.
Through the media, people hear very quickly about disasters happening anywhere around the world, and depending on what happens and where it happens, reactions can be swift or slow. For instance, the bushfires in Victoria in 2009 got world wide coverage, and money started pouring in from all over the world, to help the victims. Many of those people are now in new homes, or are having them built. Most of them still have post traumatic stress symptoms and will probably suffer this for years to come. Some of the country towns in Victoria have recently been flooded, and homes and businesses have been lost. But help is at hand. None of those people will go without food, water, or medicines, because in the Lucky Country we have systems in place to cope with that.
Not so in Pakistan. “Four Corners” started off with a message to the viewer that the following program could have scenes that cause distress. Is “distress” the word for what I felt as I watched the scenes of horror and hopelessness unfolding before my eyes? The reporter travelled around Pakistan with people providing aid to the flood victims. She spoke with people from UNICEF and other aid organizations, and representatives from the Pakistan government. They all expressed feelings of inadequacy to cope with the massive scale of this disaster. She visited hospitals which were overflowing with people – mostly mothers and children – who were suffering severe malnutrition and infections. She spoke to one doctor who I thought was very patient with her, considering the people milling around him with children and babies. One baby died in her mother’s arms, and the nursing staff tried unsuccessfully to revive her. They put the baby back into her mother’s arms, and she walked down the corridor alone, until someone came with water to close the baby’s eyes. The doctor said they were getting 100 people a day, and the corridors in the hospital were already filled with beds. They could not cope with any more. So what happens now, asked the reporter. The doctor shrugged. “I don’t know. Many more will die”.
She (reporter) went from towns to cities, in cars and by helicopter or plane. They flew over vast tracts of land, as far as the eye could see – covered with water. The reporter said 25% of Pakistan is under water. People were standing on islands of land only slightly higher than the floodwaters, some of them standing on narrow strips of land – the levees. Until the choppers dropped food packages, they had nothing to eat or drink, and very little shelter from the 45 degree heat. Once the flood waters go down, millions of people will have nothing. No homes, possessions, livestock, crops. NOTHING.
We in the so-called western world, the developed countries, sit in our snug homes with clothes, food, electricity, fresh water, etc. and watch these shows on t.v., feel sad for a few minutes, then switch channels to watch something more pleasant. I collected the dishes from our dinner and washed them, thinking about what I’d seen and heard. I kept thinking that this was not just a t.v. show, this was real life somewhere else on our planet. Those people aren’t actors who will go home at the end of the day. They are real people, right now, who are suffering terribly, and it won’t get any better for them for a long time, if indeed they even survive.
I felt so helpless. I haven’t seen any collections being taken up for Pakistan, to be able to donate a few dollars from my purse. I haven’t heard of any plans for a t.v. appeal where people can call in and promise a donation. The t.v. reporter said the aid agencies are doing their best, but they are struggling. There are massive amounts of food, fresh water and medical supplies being flown in to Pakistan, but immediate distribution of it is extremely difficult, due to the widespread floods. She wound up the program by saying that this humanitarian disaster is bigger than the Indonesian tsunami, the earthquakes in Haiti and China, and elsewhere, but the world is getting tired of giving.
And so life goes on. Police around Australia arrested over 1000 people for drunk and disorderly behaviour last Saturday night. Two footballs teams won semi final games. Has anybody heard what is happening in the Gulf, since the BP oil spill? I don’t know why I’m writing all this down. As if anyone is going to read it all. And if they do, what good will it do?
Sorry. I’m just very sad for the people of Pakistan.