In the last few years, countries across the globe have seen a sharp increase in devastating weather-related events. Parts of Colombia are experiencing heavy rains that have lasted for a year now. In the United States, the Midwest experienced the region's wettest April, while Texas had the state's driest April in a century. It is clear that we are seeing increasingly frequent and severe climate-related disasters, such as drought, floods, and catastrophic storms.
Unprecedented rain that has hammered Colombia over the past year has affected three million people and left hundreds of thousands homeless. In March, I spent three weeks traveling across the Caribbean region visiting families displaced by the floods.
It has been a big week for those of us working on Pakistan. New attention on the intensely fractured relationship between the US and Pakistan has led to questions about the fate of current and planned aid packages- with emphasis on the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act (or the Kerry-Lugar Act).
When my father was dying in July 2009 and decided to set up the Bacon Center for the Study of Climate Displacement at Refugees International (RI), my sister, Katie, and I sat down with him to talk about what he wanted the center to be and do. The first thing he said was, "I have always tried to be fair in all that I do."
This is the philosophy of Refugees International, too. Whether uprooted by war, ethnic cleansing, political persecution, or natural resource scarcity, RI fights to help get the displaced and vulnerable home or to a safer place.
Sukkur, Sindh Province, Pakistan -- On the way from the airport into the town of Sukkur you can see them camped along the road – thousands of people who fled the floods, now living in tents and makeshift shelters. In some places, a group of families have found a spot of empty ground; in others, formal camps have been set up separated from the road by plastic sheeting.
Five years after Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast, destroying homes and leaving people desperate for food and shelter, we are witnessing similar scenes of destruction coming out of Pakistan. Floods caused by torrential monsoon rains have affected an estimated 17 million Pakistanis while humanitarian agencies, local relief organizations, and the Pakistani government and military, struggle to provide desperately needed assistance and to reach over one million stranded victims.