By Flora Xavier

A visit to the Charsadda Camp

PNA’s recent Disaster Relief operation carried out by our newly created humanitarian front the Pakistan Nationalist Association Relief Group has turned out to be a huge disaster in the history of all our Relief Operations. My visit to our Charsadda camp only found desperate people trying to get all the help they could while our volunteers tried to record each and every single transaction to make sure none of the funds and supplies delivered went unaccounted. The fear was corruption and in this fear we forgot our task was to deliver aid.

None of the members seemed to know what they were doing. Our leaders made it clear that the objective instead of helping people was to discourage corruption. The focus was so heavy on recording every single transaction that aid was barely being delivered and the camp remained closed half the time. I understand that we are worried about fraud and mismanagement and want none of our limited resources to be misused but to do this do we have to cross every limit? The purpose of relief operations is to save lives and provide immediate assistance to those people who need it. Instead what I saw in Charsadda shocked me. The members and volunteers, all with no past experience of humanitarian work and with little idea of what to do next were struggling with books and trying to make sure everything was recorded instead of completing the basic task. Helping the people.

The situation was made worse by Zerab Salamat’s threats. Zerab Salamat the leader of the Pakistan Nationalist Association purposely came to the Charsadda camp and delivered many of the supplies and money personally. A simple lecture on responsibility and about how to organize the aid effort would have been enough. After all he had this kind of experience himself as an aid organizer and could have improved the organizations own effort.

Rather than doing that he threatened the workers with very colourful consequences if the records had anything missing and if any of the goods went unaccounted. Unfortunately soon after delivering this threat he left without trying to manage the aid effort. He left a new rule. Even when a single bag of food, blankets, medicine and other basic goods was delivered the recording of what had just taken place had to be seen by four people. Therefore our camps already consisting of few people all who knew nothing of how to organize such an effort, needed four people working on books and records continuously rather than concentrate on the aid effort and coordination over what supplies had been delivered already and what we had left.

Obviously the result was simple. The more experienced volunteers left to work for other more experienced and well known organizations such as the Unicef, Red Cross, TCF and Edhi foundation as the hard headed and inexperienced ones tried to record everything. By the 10th of September all three of our camps had been closed and no aid is being delivered anymore. Most of the funds that went to the Relief Group and the supplies that were bought with those funds have now been passed on to other well known organizations for their own aid efforts. There has even been some wastage of foodstuff that got soaked in floodwater in the journey and we have delivered less aid than we planned under the Relief Group. At the Charsadda camp when members realised that they were no good with this kind of effort and it was going nowhere they finally handed over all the money and the supplies to members of the Al Ansar foundation to deliver instead of the PNA Relief Group.

There is a lesson to be learned here. In the future until we have a proper Relief organization that is capable of handling relief operations with members who have some kind of experience in delivering aid members of the Nationalist Organizations and especially the Pakistan Nationalist Association are advised to donate only through well known charities and aid organizations. It’s necessary to make sure that the funds collected are not used in any other way than for the aid effort but it is also necessary to give the funds to organizations that are capable of managing disaster relief efforts.