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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Honduras: An Unprecedented Time of Disaster?

As we prepare to send a second shipment of emergency medications to the Swat Valley, Pakistan, we are asking ourselves whether we have ever received so many calls for help from so many quarters of the world in such a short period of time.

In Pakistan, an extraordinary refugee crisis (3 million displaced) in the troubled Swat Valley has compelled us to respond with emergency medical shipments. In Sri Lanka, the fallout from the Tamil-government conflagration is enormous; refugees there are in great need of supplies and shelters. In Bangladesh, we are helping to assist 4 million people who are injured or homeless in the wake of a cyclone and extensive flooding. In Honduras, an earthquake has destroyed homes, infrastructure, and livelihoods, and we are working with survivors to heal and rebuild.

Each one of these disasters is extreme in its own right, but taken together, they amount to an overwhelming constituency of sufferers. Our own capacity to respond is pushed to the utmost.

For an organization that is geared towards finding long-term solutions to poverty, this congestion of emergency-based, short-term assistance is difficult. However, it is because we have a long-term commitment in each of these countries that we must help when their fortunes take such a nightmarish turn. We, like they, have no choice.

Through us, right now, people in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Honduras are depending on people who so often choose to invest in long-term solutions, like clean water and food security. Will they be generous in these exception circumstances? Experience has shown us that they will be. Still, it is a test for our supporters - just as it is a test for us.

We have sent out an emergency appeal for donations to each of these countries. We truly hope that our friends will help them to survive this terrible chapter in their struggle for development.

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