DUBAI // Pakistani expatriates are preparing to send their first shipment of aid to the Swat Valley, where some 2.4 million people have been displaced by fighting between the military and the Taliban. Shah Hussein, 62, a businessman who has been living in the UAE for 40 years, will fly to Peshawar tomorrow with a 40-tonne container loaded with blankets, mattresses, clothes, shoes, dried food, basic medicine, water, water purification tablets, fans, generators and mosquito nets.
The shipment is the product of a fundraising campaign by the Pakistan Association Dubai. A Geo TV telethon last Friday raised Dh500,000 (US$136,000), and the total funds raised is expected to be in the millions of dirhams. As well as distributing the shipment, Mr Hussein, a member of the association's executive committee, will arrange accommodation and an office for other volunteers. The association plans to take over an unused government hospital in Mardan, a city south of the Swat Valley where some 170,000 people are living in refugee camps, according the Pakistani NGO Al Khidmat.
Disease is a serious threat in the refugee camps, which have poor toilet facilities, a lack of clean water and a lack of doctors. "Right now there is a big problem with drinking water, it's not very clean," said Rizwan Fancy, the association's welfare secretary. "To take water from here is a big task so people should donate purification tablets or donate money as these are cheaper in Pakistan. There are many diseases because of unclean water."
Mr Fancy said he was pleased with the response to appeals so far. "But in view of the number of Pakistanis living in the UAE, of which there are around 850,000, we should do many things more," he added. "The response is very good but it is within our capacity to do more." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org