Almost immediately after the onset of the worst floods in Pakistan’s history last summer, the U.S. government’s response effort leaped into action. In the four months since the floods hit, the United States has contributed $500 million to relief and early recovery efforts. In addition, the U.S. military — in partnership with their Pakistani counterparts — flew helicopter relief missions that rescued more than 40,000 people and delivered more than 26 million pounds of relief supplies.
What is less well known is the U.S. military’s efforts to help journalists in Pakistan provide quality coverage of the impact of the floods and ongoing relief operations. Working with the Public Affairs Office at the American Embassy in Islamabad, the U.S. military took 194 international and Pakistani journalists by helicopter to flood-affected areas.
The U.S. military’s assistance in transporting journalists to the heart of the flood-affected areas, facilitating eyewitness coverage, was critical for two reasons. First of all, the bird’s eye view was by far the best way to grasp the size and scale of the damage. Video images from the helicopter flights were used widely on Pakistani and international television stations. Second, the worst-hit regions were inaccessible by road. U.S. military helicopters were able to ferry journalists to areas isolated by floodwaters, giving them access to the real story and thereby giving a voice to the victims. This coverage has helped Pakistanis and the international community better understand the enormity of the flood’s destruction as well as the scale of relief and recovery operations.
Aasif Baloch, Station Manager for FM 97 in Islamabad, expressed appreciation for his “chance to visit different Union Councils at Shared, Peach Bala, Mayra, and Kota Kot in the District Kohistan in the last week of October 2010. I came to know how the government of Pakistan, the Pakistan Army, and American Army were providing food, medicine, shelter, and other basic aid in the remote areas of Kyber Pakhtunkhwa Province through the Chinook helicopters on a daily basis.”
According to Shahid Afraz Khan, Producer for Current Affairs at Radio Pakistan, “During my five years of journalistic experience, my visit to remote areas of Kohistan situated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, arranged by the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Army, was no doubt one of my most informative and memorable experiences.”
While the U.S. military flew its last humanitarian airlift mission on November 30, USAID and other U.S. civilian agencies will continue to partner with the government of Pakistan to provide assistance to flood victims, and the Embassy’s Public Affairs Office will continue to work with journalists to provide timely and accurate information about flood rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts.
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