By Mariam Aziz, MD
When I installed satellite TV with Pakistani channels for my Pakistani nanny, I never knew how much it would open my eyes to the realities of the worst natural disaster in recent times.
I thought it was fun to watch cooking shows, soap operas, news/politics and have a glimpse of the fast paced “pop culture” there; I had a new window into the lives of some Pakistanis. In August, the news broke about the massive flooding affecting 20 million people, and I watched image after image of women, children and older men wading through water to their necks, on lands where they previously sat and lived a simple life farming, raising their children and drinking tea.
I watched in horror as the flood waters washed away homes, livestock, crops and even families. My ears ached with the wails of mothers who had watched their children disappear, or were watching them now starve to death because of the lack of food. Had my life been just a little different, and my parents hadn’t immigrated to America, that could have been my little boy, Humza, hungry in those pictures; it could have been my mother, my grandmother with tears in her eyes. My heart twinges as I hug my child even closer these days.
But then I saw the spirit of human generosity and of hope. The helicopter pilots flying rescue missions and health care workers who spend their days treating the young, the frail, the elderly. People who have no possessions sharing whatever food is available to people who are suffering with them.
When the satellite was off, my eyes came upon the news here. The funds toward Pakistan have been tragically slow and desperately insufficient. The UN continues to beg for international aid, claiming that donor fatigue or fears of corruption have caused the world to hesitate, bringing fresh tears to my eyes.
For the worst natural disaster in recent history, there was no big concert, no world-famous singers collecting money for Pakistan. But the need is clearly too great, and no country, even one with a competent government, would withstand its pressure.
My spirits lifted when along came the e-mails, the messages, and the phone calls from colleagues who were just as heartbroken, and just as motivated to get involved. Throughout my training here at Rush as a medical student, a resident, a fellow and now as an attending, I have been surrounded by people who have dedicated their lives to the service of others, with compassion for the needy, and motivation to improve the world around us.
People from UIC, Rush, the University of Chicago, John H. Stroger Hospital of Cook County had also heard the voices of people in need, holding the Pakistan Flood Relief Fundraising Dinner last week. I am hopeful and thank everyone from the Medical District and the community who have donated to this worthy cause. To the people of Pakistan, you are not forgotten. We are here to help, even if it’s a little bit at a time.
Please consider helping the flood victims by making a donation to relief organizations such as Oxfam International, Doctors Without Borders or the American Red Cross. You also can make a $10 donation to the U.S. State Department’s Pakistan Flood Relief Fund by texting “FLOOD” to 27722 from your mobile phone.