As water from the Indus River flooded Pakistan in the beginning of August, one of Imran Khalid’s friends had gone hiking and found himself stranded on the country’s mountains for seven days.
The family of another friend of Khalid’s had to be airlifted by helicopter to avoid the flooding.
‘Imagine Katrina, times 10,’ said Khalid, an environmental and natural resources doctoral candidate at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. ‘That’s when you realize the impact of the floods.’
Khalid is originally from Rawalpindi, in the northwest and near the nation’s capital of Islamabad.
As Syracuse University and ESF students with ties to the Pakistan area feel the effects of the flooding, the university has provided counseling. But some at the university are also calling for more active relief efforts.
‘I think it’s not getting the attention it deserves,’ said Maliha Aqueel, a broadcast journalism graduate student on a student exchange program from Lahore, also in northwest Pakistan.
The devastation in Pakistan is widespread.
From Kashmir to Karachi, one-fifth of the country was fully underwater at one point, covering an area the size of New England, as the Indus River overran its banks. The population affected is roughly on par to that of New York state, according to an article published in The New York Times on Thursday.
More than 1,500 people have died as the waters rose due to heavy monsoon rains in August, according to The New York Times. The amount of people displaced, hungry or in need of medical care is in the millions.
The U.S., an ally of Pakistan, donated a total of $150 million on Aug. 19. This aid will help Pakistan for humanitarian reasons, but will also serve to prevent instability in Afghanistan from spilling over the border.
‘It’s an appalling episode of destabilization,’ said Goodwin Cooke, a former ambassador and former consular officer in Pakistan and a professor emeritus at SU.
The struggle to survive in Pakistan at this time also falls during Ramadan, a holy month in the Muslim calendar.
‘People are fasting regardless of what is happening around them,’ Khalid said.
It has been a challenge to travel to meet relatives during Ramadan, and food prices have also risen because of infrastructure difficulties.
‘The whole concept of family has broken down in a sense,’ Khalid said.
For students like Khalid, who have personally been affected by the flooding, the Slutzker Center for International Services and Hendricks Chapel opened for counseling and support. So far only one student has taken advantage of counseling services for the floods, said Patricia Burak, director of the Slutzker Center.
SU has 14 Pakistani citizens on student visas this year, according to records from the Slutzker Center. That number has fluctuated over the years. In 1991, 17 Pakistani students were studying at SU. In 2000, 16 students were from Pakistan, and in 2009, 10 students were from Pakistan.
Students need to initiate the movement for relief efforts, Burak said. She has also only heard from one student asking about SU’s efforts to help Pakistan.
‘We want to hear from them,’ she said.
Aqueel, the graduate student from Lahore, proposed placing boxes around campus so students can donate food and water to families in Pakistan. Khalid called for people to have a greater awareness of the problem and to donate if they want to.
Burak also suggested students make contributions through the United Nations Children’s Fund or through Oxfam International.
She said she is going develop a forum to discuss relevant issues related to the disaster with a date yet to be determined.
Burak is reminded of the need to help the country by a poster of snow-covered mountains in Pakistan that hangs across from her desk.
‘People just don’t really have a big idea about it,’ Burak said. ‘Pakistan is not just this hot and crowded place to live.’