Typical Ration Bag: Rs1,600
Includes: Flour, oil, sugar, rice, lentil and a soap
“We’re building a stockpile. The word stockpile by definition means not for immediate use. It means you’re preparing for a battle to come and you have to have the equipment and you have to have it now. I can tell you this, if you wait to prepare for the storm to hit, it is too late, my friends. You have to prepare before the storm hits. And in this case, the storm is when you hit that high point, when you hit that apex. How do you know when you’re going to get there? You don’t. There is no crystal ball but there is science and there is data and there are health professionals who have studied this virus and its progress since China. Listen to them and follow the data to develop one coordinated plan,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York in a press briefing on coronavirus on March 30.
I witnessed the nation coming together when the deadly 2005 earthquake hit northern Pakistan. It devastated entire communities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK). The 7.6 Richter scale quake wreaked havoc and misery to 400,000 families when at least 80,000 lost their lives. 90% of the affectees were from difficult-to-access rural areas in the mountains.
Pakistan had in recent times not seen such extensive devastation and was hardly prepared to handle such a disaster. But the nation witnessed an unprecedented surge of sympathy for the affected communities when people from all over the country and the world rushed for assistance.
Today, amid the coronavirus pandemic, an unprecedented lockdown is in place. And as all of us reflect on our daily lives, I hear nonprofits, independent guerrillas and civil society members coming forward and donating and collecting ration bags for daily wage affectees or families living under the poverty line. Several good-hearted folks have come together and started the drive by spreading the word on social media platforms to support the cause.
Each cause has a different price and structure of distribution. We can select packages for a week, a month and so on. But what’s next?
My question is: where is the map of action for the households or the system where it’s equally, ethically and socially distributed? How are we deciding what neighbourhoods need the most?
Arif Hasan and I were are in an anti-encroachment WhatsApp group, where he said, “It’s frightening to see how everyone will end up washing for 20 seconds in a country where water is a contested property.”
Celebrities and social media influencer’s are following a global practice of how to deal with COVID-19. Whereas we need to rethink of global south issues and practice a regional solution. Standards come from international forums, but they need to be localised and regionalised.
If today non-profit organisations and independent ration collectors are designing packages and sending mass messages to collect funds to feed the affectees, then maybe we also need to study and collect per household data and map the areas where any organisation is not distributing.
What we need is a holistic plan for preparedness for disaster or unprecedented situational circumstances. This is the time when we need platforms to come together and work closely with local authorities and develop a strategy or a masterplan, through breaking down clusters, focusing on vulnerable communities and involving organisations.
In our provincial context, where the Sindh government has shown a strong sense of perspective in times like these, maybe this is when we need to reflect and look for local strategic plans and grassroots level data analysis for future disaster distribution methodology, where civil society’s intervention is not just out of goodwill but equality and social systems. Where collaboration can be meaningful, and data sharing becomes a common practice.