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Suburban organizers say more Pakistan flood relief urgently needed
By Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald Staff

Volunteers load boxes of clothing and supplies into a 40-foot-long container that left Westchester Thursday afternoon, heading for the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

 

Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald

Ikram Hussain, a board member of the local nonprofit Helping Hand for Relief and Development, shows some of the new clothing people have donated. Organizers renewed the call for new or lightly-used winter wear.

 

Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald

Medical supplies and over-the-counter drugs for basic illnesses are in high demand, say local organizers of Pakistan flood relief efforts. These boxes full of medical supplies will be sent via Pakistan International Airlines to flood-ravaged areas.

 

Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald

A 40-foot-long container filled with boxes of clothing and supplies donated by suburban residents left Westchester for Pakistan Thursday.

 

Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald

Boxes of nutritious food - cereal bars, biscuits, baby formula and other daily sustenance meals donated for Pakistan flood relief await shipment at a Westchester warehouse. Organizers now need money and volunteers to sort through the donations.

 

Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald

Ikram Hussain, a board member of the local nonprofit Helping Hand for Relief and Development, talks about the ongoing need for emergency food supplies in flood-ravaged Pakistan. The organization has shipped three containers of clothing and supplies and is planning another massive collection drive after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan ends Friday.

 

Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald

Nadia Zeeshan, office administrator for Helping Hand for Relief and Development, organizes suitcases full of donated clothing.

 

Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald

Ikram Hussain, a board member of the local nonprofit Helping Hand for Relief and Development that is collecting supplies for Pakistan flood relief, shows some of the new clothing people have donated.

 

Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald

Volunteers load boxes of clothing and supplies donated by suburban residents and people from throughout the greater Illinois region for Pakistan flood relief into a 40-foot-long container.

 

Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald

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Published: 9/10/2010 12:00 AM

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With Pakistan's flood toll still rising and the flow of international aid down, suburban relief agencies are doing what they can to keep the donations coming beyond the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Area Muslims mark the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting in which the faithful also give the most in charity, with the Eid-ul-Fitr prayer and festivities on Friday.

Yet, that shouldn't mean an end to the giving, said Ikram Hussain, board member of Helping Hand (USA) for Relief and Development.

"After Ramadan we will do another big push for fundraising," Hussain said.

Helping Hand already has shipped two container loads of clothes and relief supplies to Pakistan since the late July monsoon floods washed away croplands, killed livestock and destroyed an estimated 300,000 homes.

Volunteers loaded up a third 40-foot-long container Thursday with dozens of boxes of clothing and food collected at various suburban mosques, headed for the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

Still hundreds of cartons and bags of unsorted donations remain at the agency's Westchester warehouse, which volunteers will sift through in the coming weeks.

"People bring in new clothes in hangers" not just unwanted junk, Hussain said. "So that's encouraging. It really shows that people still have a heart."

The United Nations has declared Pakistan's floods the largest humanitarian crisis ever, affecting an estimated 21 million people - bigger than the combined effects of Katrina, the 2005 Indian Ocean tsunami and Kashmir earthquake, 2007 cyclone Nargis affecting Myanmar, and the Haitian earthquake.

According to the U.N., hundreds of millions of dollars in new donations are needed to deliver food, water, medicine and shelter to flood-affected Pakistanis. Roughly 10 million people need daily assistance.

Over-the-counter medications for pain, diarrhea, pneumonia, cough and other common ailments are a priority, as are nourishing foods, winter clothing, jackets, comforters, blankets, socks and tents, Hussain said.

Though donations are pouring in - more than 1,000 cartons of food items were recently brought in from Iowa - organizers hope to re-energize Muslim and non-Muslim donors alike to continue giving to not only meet the immediate but also longer-term needs of flood victims.

"Whatever we did (initially) was for emergency relief," Hussain said.

In the long run, rural Pakistanis will need specialized services like women's clinics and equipment such as water filtration systems, farming equipment, seeds and livestock to reestablish farming communities, he added.

"We have to figure out how we can restart their agricultural and livestock activities," Hussain said.

Hussain said he hopes to bring together area relief organizations to coordinate efforts, share resources and exchange ideas to fill the gaps.

"Some relief organizations here are good at collecting donations but they don't have ground management and infrastructure there," Hussain said. "So we could partner with them."

Helping Hand mobilized after the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and already has resources in place on the ground in Pakistan. It has 12 relief camps/clinics set up where food, medicine and clothing are distributed to flood victims.

"Each time we refurbish it whenever they need (supplies)," Hussain said. "Last week we passed (out) a million meals to the families in the area."

Ways to donate:

• Pakistan International Airlines cargo office at O'Hare International Airport, 618 S. Access Road, Chicago; (630) 932-6254.

• Helping Hand (USA) for Relief and Development, 9999 Roosevelt Road, Westchester; (630) 748-8969.

• Islamic Relief USA, 10101 S. Roberts Road, Suite 100, Palos Hills, IL 60465. (708) 430-9633. Text 20222 to make a one-time $10 donation for Pakistan Flood Emergency.

• The Consulate General of Pakistan, 333 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 728, Chicago, IL 60601; (312) 781-1831. pakistanconsulatechicago.org. Make cash/check donations to the "Prime Minister's Flood Relief Fund," CHASE Bank account number 884577115.

•U.S. State Department Pakistan Relief Fund: Text "FLOOD" to 27722 from your mobile phone to give $10.

•Save the Children, (800) 728-3843. savethechildren.org

•OXFAM, (800) 77-OXFAM, oxfamamerica.org

•American Red Cross, (800) 435-7669. redcross.org.