Norwegians send aid to Pakistan

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Both the Norwegian government and individuals were mobilizing efforts to send aid to Pakistan this week, after devastating floods have left more than a million homeless. Many Norwegians have family and friends in Pakistan who are directly affected by the disaster.

NOWSHERA, PAKISTAN - AUGUST 3: A man recovers a wheelbarrow from his flood destroyed home on August 3, 2010 in Pabi near to Nowshera, Pakistan. Rescue workers and troops in northwest Pakistan struggled to reach thousands of people affected by the country's worst floods since 1929, according to officials. Heavy monsoon rains have triggered severe, deadly flooding in Northwest Pakistan, claiming the lives of more than 1,100 people and forcing thousands from their homes. The United Nations estimates that around one million people nationwide are affected by the disaster. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Pakistanis have long made up one of Norway’s largest immigrant groups, and most retain close ties to their homeland. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported on Wednesday that aid funds would be solicited at local mosques in Norway this Friday, while scores of families were sending aid on their own.

Not all local Pakistani families were enthusiastic about helping, though. Newspaper Aftenposten reported that the majority of those in Norway come from Punjab province in Pakistan, not the areas where the floods have hit hardest, and belong to other castes. One local Pakistani politician also told Aftenposten there were concerns that individually collected aid funds wouldn’t be distributed as intended.

The Norwegian government was sending immediate aid of NOK 30 million (about USD 5 million) to help get food and supplies to victims of the worst flooding in at least 80 years (PicApp photo). Around NOK 9 million was sent through the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund, and another NOK 21 million to UNICEF, the OCHA Emergency Response Fund and the Red Cross, both its local and international branches. 

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said he and his colleagues were following development in Pakistan closely and evaluating needs, opening the possibility for more aid at a later date.

“The UN’s coordinating role determines an effective and good humanitarian response,” Støre said, adding that the government would let the UN decide how the aid should be distributed.

Meanwhile, local activists like Sarofh Mahmood and Ata-ul-mustafa Mahmood were also collecting emergency funds on the streets of downtown Oslo, reported NRK. The death toll in Pakistan was estimated at around 1,500 and the UN believes at least 1.8 million are in dire need of help.

Entire villages and towns have disappeared in the swirling waters, disease is already spreading and hundreds of thousands have lost all their possessions, while floodwaters have wiped out crop fields.

There was acute need for food and clean water, and many complained they’d seen no sign of aid. Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, was in Europe on a five-day official visit and was criticized for not returning home and making the disaster a priority.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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