USAID Conference Call
on Earthquake Relief Efforts
By Tahir Ali*
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) hosted
a telephone briefing on December 15. The purpose of the conference
call was to brief participants – comprising largely
of Pakistani-American leaders across the States – on
the US Government’s role in helping the people of Pakistan
recover from the October 8 earthquake.
The agenda included to feature a welcome by Under Secretary
of State Karen Hughes, and an overview of the ongoing relief
efforts by USAID Deputy Assistant Administrators’ William
Garvelink and Mark Ward.
Mark Ward, offered Hughes regrets for not being able to attend,
especially since it was she who came up with the conference
idea. Ward thanked the participants and the Pakistani-American
community, and in praise added, “You all are showing
a tremendous face of US to Pakistan.”
On October 27, 2005, five distinguished private-sector chairman
and CEOs, supported by President Bush, agreed to lead a nationwide
effort to raise awareness and resources to help survivors
of the South Asia earthquake rebuild their lives and communities.
These included: Jeffrey R. Immelt, of GE, James P. Kelley,
former CEO of UPS, Henry A. McKinnell, of Pfizer, Anne M.
Mulcahy, of Xerox, and Sanford I. Weill, of Citigroup.
On Wednesday, November 9, 2005, the business leaders met with
President George W. Bush at the White House to announce the
launch of the South Asia Earthquake Relief Fund, and on November
13, the CEOs, Karen Hughes, Mark Ward and others traveled
to Pakistan to witness first-hand the devastation caused by
the October 8 earthquake.
"We all were struck by the relief efforts that were already
in progress. The Pakistan army was putting together teams
of 5 soldiers each to hike into territories where helicopters
weren't able to go" Ward recalled. However, the delegation
was surprised to learn that the NGOs were already there helping.
The NGOs and the Army had a meaningful meeting, "But
two comments blew me away: You never hear NGOs applauding
the Army, and the Pakistan Army reasserting the need of the
NGOs." Ward told us of that meeting.
William Garvelink noted that after the earthquake had occurred
it triggered a whole bunch of activities: US helicopters arrived,
$100,000. in cash was dispatched immediately to the US embassy
in Pakistan to buy medicine etc., a plane was chartered to
Dubai to fly emergency supplies to Pakistan, that included
"water, high energy biscuits, concrete cutting saws,
and all of these things that I mentioned occurred within the
first 36 hours of the earthquake."
Garvelink said, "We helped NGOs, provided tents and shelter
alternates, fixing public buildings, set in place a voucher
system, we started a 'cash for work' program, to revitalize
the economy and loss of jobs.
"USAID has obligated $65 million so far" in humanitarian
assistance. According to Ward and Garvelink, overall US commitment
to Pakistan for relief and reconstruction is $510 million.
[$300 million in economic assistance from US Government, $110
million in US military in-kind support for relief work, and
an estimated $100 million contributions from US private sectors].
Mark Ward speaking on the reconstruction efforts affirmed
as such, "We start planning the reconstruction phase
from day one." Ward, however, indicated that the "bulk
of heavy reconstruction will have to wait after spring."
He told us that it was a little too soon to say what components
of reconstruction will look like, but "we expect to be
engaged in rebuilding houses, schools, hospitals and clinics."
Mark Ward stressed the "Build Back Better" concept,
rebuilding earthquake-resistant buildings.
William Garvelink shared some of his concerns. He mentioned
the affect of the harsh winter ahead on the people living
at high altitudes. Garvelink revealed that of the 500 thousand
tents, only 30 % were winterized, the rest needed to be winterized,
a task undertaken by USAID and its Disaster Assistance Response
In answering some questions and on their closing remarks both
Mark Ward and William Garvelink were upfront and clear on
their mission. In response to a question on how the US Government
and Pakistan Government were cooperating with each other,
Ward responded, "I will say brilliantly," adding,
"although we do not hand over the funds to Pakistan they
are still our partners in deciding how to spend it."
To a question as to how the Pakistani-Americans can help,
he observed: "What you all can do besides the obvious[money]
is to provide the technical know-how pro-bono - I don't want
to sound like the Grinch during Christmas, but cash is much
better than in-kind donations. Of course, if someone has 100
winterized tents this is a useful in-kind contribution."
Mark Ward who was getting ready to embark on his fourth visit
to Pakistan spoke of his recent meeting with President George
Bush and conveyed the President's comment that “he knew
how important Pakistan is to USA.”. Ward shared an important
piece of news before it even hit the wire that Senior George
Bush had agreed to be the secretary general (UN Envoy) of
The conference call that lasted over an hour reaffirmed USAID
position in the minds of the listeners; at the outset it may
even appear as an infomercial, nevertheless, one cannot look
a gift horse in the mouth.
The hosts parted with a promise to meet face to face next
*Tahir Ali is the author of book:Muslim Vote Counts and Recounts
published in 2004 by Wyndham Hal