The Pakistan floods of 2011 claimed more than 400 lives, and 200,000 homes. Like most natural disasters, the aftermath hit people living in poverty the hardest. After their homes were destroyed by the surging water, survivors struggled to find shelter, often squatting in empty lots and sprawling, overcrowded camps. Aid was assigned to help these people address their basic needs, yet a year later many were still waiting, trapped in dire poverty. For Kareem Ahmed* this was exactly the case.
Kareem lost everything in the floods. Without property or belongings, he qualified to receive two payments of 10,000 rupees (US$100) through a government scheme that distributed support through specially-issued debit cards. Yet when he went to the offices, he says, he was told the card had already been collected by someone else. Kareem, who needed the money to help his family get back on their feet, was desperate. It was then that he heard about our anti-corruption and legal advice centre.
“With so much money being distributed, corruption and mismanagement can easily creep in”, says Ashfaque, assistant project coordinator at the centre. “We help people to understand what they are entitled to, and speak out when the system fails.”
Kareem was not the only one who came to us to report his experiences – in total we received more than 50 complaints. Some, like Kareem, claimed that their card had been issued to the wrong person. Others had only received half of the money they had been allocated. Working with the victims to document their complaints in writing, the centre submitted a first batch of cases to the federal government and the department in charge of disaster management, asking them to address the issue.
At first, there was silence. Persisting, the centre wrote to the authorities again. When it received a second letter, the government instructed the disaster management department to look into the complaints, asking them to provide a detailed report. Soon, the authority contacted the centre. They had reviewed the cases, they said, and the cards were now ready for collection. Among them was Kareem’s.
For Kareem, it’s a happy end to the story. But for the centre, work continues. Many cases are still pending, and the centre’s legal team is busy raising awareness among local communities of the support they can offer in fighting bribery and poor management. “It might be a long process,” says TI Pakistan’s Executive Director Saad Rashid, “but this money is vital if people are going to rebuild their lives - we want to help ensure it goes where it should.”
*Names have been changed