On Wednesday, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah visited Pakistan to witness the damage caused by severe flooding. On USAID’s Impact Blog, Shah described his view from the helicopter: “As far as the eye could see, foundations and buttresses supported nonexistent houses and bridges, power lines lay hopelessly tangled on the ground, and roads destroyed and washed away… As I look around me, it is obvious that Pakistan faces the biggest challenge in its 64-year history.”
Shah used the visit as an opportunity to rethink U.S. aid to Pakistan, announcing that some of the funds from the five-year, $7.5 billion aid package will be redirected to assist in flood-related relief and recovery. Shah showed great flexibility, saying “I fully envision some of the priorities will have to shift, and shift so that there’s more of a recovery and reconstruction focus.”
Since Congress passed the Kerry Lugar bill for aid to Pakistan last year, the Agency has spent time determining where the aid can be most impactful. Secretary Clinton recently announced the aid would be geared toward large-scale water and energy projects. And Ambassador Holbrooke has stressed that the aid will go directly to the Pakistani government and organizations. While Shah noted $50 million of the funds will be immediately redirected to emergency relief, he also said “we will need to reassess the full extent of our commitment to the people of Pakistan and do whatever is most appropriate and most effective to really help people recover.”
Though top ranking officials lament the country won’t see significant progress on reconstruction for years, Shah pressed that this is an opportunity to build more sustainable systems and services. The new Administrator exercised innovation – assisting in the launch of an information-sharing system using Pakistan’s Humari Awaz cell phone network. In describing the tool for an interview on Pakistan Radio, Shah said, “We are pleased that Pakistan has a forum for information sharing that people everywhere can use to engage each other in the flood relief effort. Information sharing can help connect people to resources to aid in disaster recovery and to engage one another in problem-solving.”
Apart from the flexibility – on the ground and in Washington – and the innovation already being exercised as part of the relief effort, Administrator Shah touched upon principles of effective aid he hopes to see as reconstruction moves forward. As part of a piece on PBS News Hour, Shah said, “I am thankful that Minister Qureshi and others…have also indicated their full commitment to making sure that relief efforts are transparent, resources that go in are accounted for, and there’s real verification, so that we can all continue to stand by the people of Pakistan during this hour of humanitarian need.”
Text FLOOD to 27722 to give $10 or go to www.state.gov to learn more about how you can help in the relief effort through the Pakistan Relief Fund.