Learn more: Pakistan Flood Disaster ReliefAbout the Author: Haroon Ullah serves as Pakistan Desk Officer at the U.S. Department of State.
The 2005 earthquake that struck Pakistan came suddenly and out of nowhere. Wearing his gray pugree (a wrapped cap), Yasir gracefully moved the last wooden shingle out of the remnants of his room. I stood there, watching him and wondering how he could be so calm when they had just witnessed a devastating earthquake, a national disaster. Yasir had lost everything, but he smiled when recounting the helicopters with U.S. flags that had delivered food to his family.
My mind wandered back to Yasir's family this week, as I heard of the disastrous floods in Pakistan. I tried to reach his family, as I watched the horror unfold on television as the floods continue to spread and have already displaced more than 14 million people. Having once lived in those same areas in Pakistan, I could picture the living conditions millions like Yasir would be living day-to-day. This is just the beginning of what the United Nations is calling the worst humanitarian crisis in recent memory.
As a Pakistani-American, I feel a deep sense of professional and personal responsibility to the region my grandparents came from, which is why it is an honor to work at the State Department. In my role, I can help make the U.S.-Pakistan relationship more productive. In response to the floods, I have worked to bring the Pakistani-American community forward in presenting a positive face for the United States. So far, the Pakistani-American community has pledged over $6 million to the flood crisis. Ambassador Holbrooke's office has hosted a series of conference calls to share information and hear the concerns of the relief organizations working in the region and the Pakistani-American community. And today, USAID hosted a town hall with nearly 200 members of the Diaspora community in attendance to discuss how to help people recover from the flood devastation.
On Pakistan's Independence day tomorrow, several parade organizers plan to publicize the text SWAT campaign -- you too can participate, by texting the word "SWAT" to 50555, which will donate $10 to the UN's flood relief effort. Each one of us has a responsibility in raising awareness of this humanitarian crisis, whether through Twitter, Facebook, colleagues, or friends and families.
Too many families, like Yasir, are looking for hope in the face of disaster. Let's come together as Americans in a spirit of giving and charity and give people another reason to believe in the United States.