A R Jerral The recent floods have caused massive devastation throughout Pakistan. All provinces have suffered in an unprecedented manner. One estimate puts 20 million people adversely affected. Loss of property and livestock and damage to crops are still to be assessed correctly. We may never know the real extent of damage in monetary terms. One can only say that Pakistan has suffered a huge loss in terms of money and lives lost. We have gone back perhaps 10 or even more years. So far the response from the international community to help rebuild Pakistan has not been encouraging; though there are statements and pledges for help. This lukewarm response might be the result of our demonstrated past performances in such natural disasters. The donor organisations and countries have expressed doubts about the manner aid was dispersed or spent. In response to our requests for aid for flood victims there was widespread suspicion about the ultimate utilisation of funds. The credibility gap still exists at home and abroad. The nation may have to face the challenge on its own, and we need well coordinated plan for that. This is an opportunity for us to demonstrate to the world and to the nation that we, collectively at government and community level, are capable enough to mount a concerted effort to rebuild Pakistan in a mature and dedicated manner. Once we project this ability, others will follow to help us overcome the calamity. We need to approach the task in an organized and systematic way. Presently there is talk of setting up a commission to assess the damage and loss, and then recommend method to disburse the aid. This method will fail as one commission will take a long time to travel throughout the devastated areas, meet affected people, assess the loss and then recommend measures to extend help. This is an administrative exercise and should be tackled as such. Our administrative machinery should be mobilised for this purpose. The damage can be classified and compartmentalised; the private property, crops, infrastructure and livestock. The human loss can never be replaced but if the government desires to compensate it in monetary terms, it can be added to the list. These losses should be assessed from bottom upwards. Each district comprise Union Councils (UCs), Tehsil Management Authorities (TMAs) and District Administrations. These agencies, having full knowledge of the area, should be mobilised to assess the total damage separately under the headings listed above. As the area under survey and assessment will be limited, progress will be quick. The effort will involve local people and the chances of malpractices will be minimal. Damage assessment and funds required for rebuilding will thus originate from the place they are needed. These demands should be coordinated at the TMA level first and TMAs collective requirements should be collated and coordinated at district level. From the district administration the assessment should be passed on to the provincial administration who will be able to have a collective view of the requirements of funds, materials and manpower to set the rebuild activity in motion. As all UCs, TMAs and districts will be doing this simultaneously in their own areas, there will be very little time loss. The provincial administration should deliberate at the estimates submitted by lower tiers and assign priorities to the rebuild activity in consultation with the lower tiers. The nation at the private and public level has to gear up for a long haul rebuild activity. Once the floods recede and affectees go back, they will need financial help to reconstruct their homes. The federal and provincial governments should then distribute funds to the affected people for this purpose. We need to remove the pitfalls experienced in distributing funds during the earthquake of 2005. The ERRA and NDMA, established to provide help during national calamities, do not carry a healthy reputation. These are fat authorities, more geared to their own comfort and have proved ineffective in providing timely help to people. One has to visit Muzaffarabad and meet earthquake victims to judge their performance. These organisations should be tasked to rebuild public infrastructure only. If foreign aid becomes available donor countries should be asked to take up major projects like bridges, roads, railway lines, hospitals and schools. The rebuilding of private homes and properties should be undertaken by owners themselves with funds made available to them according to estimates made by UCs and TMAs. The government needs to establish a transparent and honest system for the distribution of funds to the satisfaction of donors and recipients; donor representatives should be part of the fund disbursement system. Presently the damage-and-loss data is being collated; our leaders are engaged in vested political activity. The need of the hour is that they should move around in their constituencies to help collect and collate the data. That is not seen happening. Private volunteer organisations too should be co- opted in this effort for speedier results. Two aspects need immediate attention and practical steps. Standing crops have been destroyed in flood hit areas. These areas are the bread basket of Pakistan. The lands will not be cultivable till waters recede, lands dry up and debris is cleared. This may take two crop seasons till optimum cultivation is achieved. The danger of a famine looms large. There will be acute shortage of food in the country in the time to come. There are no measures in place to avoid chaotic scenes one saw during the atta crisis. There is a need to put a rationing system in place so that people can get the required rations conveniently. Left to the trading community, this aspect will spiral out of control, causing great misery to the people. Epidemics burst out after such natural calamities and cause further hardship. Though medical outfits are out providing health care, the effort has to increase and needs to remain in place over a long period of time. Our government should request donor countries and aid organizations for a generous supply of medicines for sustained medical aid. If Pakistan can judicially control the distribution of rations and arrest disease, half the task will be done. Rest will take time. This is the time when Pakistan can prove to the world that it is a self-respecting dignified nation, which can brace itself to meet natural disasters head-on and come up on top honourably. The time also requires of our leaders and political elite to show austerity and stop inter-party rivalries. Their extravagance and bickering tarnish the countrys image; they need to demonstrate that they are the leaders of the nation. In times of hardship they need to identify themselves with the masses.