International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Muhammad: Behind the scenes with an IRC aid worker (Part l)

If you’re ever feeling cynical about human nature, I’d like you to meet Muhammad*. He’s an International Rescue Committee (IRC) colleague who has performed humanitarian work for more than a decade.  However, unless you’re a Pakistani living near the Afghan border, you’ll have a hard time finding him!  I ‘m fortunate, Muhammad is a colleague of mine, and was in the capital Islamabad recently.

I’d initially heard about Muhammad from another IRC colleague. “He’s amazing,” she said.  “At the height of last year’s flooding, when everyone else was fleeing to safety, Muhammad went in the opposite direction.”

Muhammad is a doting husband and father in his mid-thirties. After finishing his graduate studies in rural development and agriculture, he worked with drug-addicted children confined to prison; then he spent a year on an HIV/AIDS awareness project. He came to the IRC three years ago. In conversation he comes across as thoughtful, directed and passionate, all essential qualities for an aid worker. 

At the IRC, Muhammad ensures that thousands of IDPs (internally displaced persons, NGO-speak for people forced to leave their home communities) have access to basic necessities for survival. Among those he serves are the half-million Pakistanis who fled fierce fighting between the Taliban and the Pakistan Army starting in 2008. Last year, with an apparent end to the fighting, many IDPs were finally returning home. Muhammad and his colleagues spent the early part of 2010 setting up a clean water program, overseeing the installation of culverts carrying water to fields and orchards, and providing returnees with housing materials, cooking utensils and bedding.  Just months later, much of their work was undone. 

The Floods

During summer last year, Muhammad was visiting an IRC field office in the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan. It was the start of the monsoon season, typically two months of heavy rains that swell streams and rivers. In mid-July, however, a three-day deluge triggered catastrophic flash flooding in the upper reaches of the Swat Valley. By the end of the first day of downpours, Muhammad and his staff were already marooned at the field office. A nearby stream, normally used by villagers to bathe and wash clothes, had transformed into a raging slurry of mud and trees. Muhammad watched boulders the size of small SUVs tumble downstream.

“It was rising every minute,” he recalls. “People had always considered the stream a friend, and now we were shocked by how quickly it became a raging river.”

Muhammad and his colleagues hastily moved IRC equipment and emergency food supplies to a drier spot. But they couldn’t travel far—Muhammad learned via mobile phone that roads downstream had been washed away.  He and his colleagues called their families to check on their safety; then turned their attention to those in need close by, and there were many.

Check back tomorrow here to read more about Muhammad’s work in the wake of last year’s floods.
  
*Due to IRC security protocols, Muhammad’s name has been changed. 

3 comments

Comments

Wowwww.......... To be a

Wowwww.......... To be a warrior is not a simple matter of wishing to be one. It is rather an endless struggle that will go on to the very last moment of our lives. Nobody is born a warrior, in exactly the same way that nobody is born an average man. We make ourselves into one or the other. Carlos Castaneda When thing are done in the best manner we say Wow………..Muhammad as human being, co-worker and friend is always been appreciated all with his jolly nature, but being as humanitarian worker he is very serious, where human is valued and taken good care of, have seen very few people who take their work professionally and make it the choice of their lives and he is one of them. Muhammad has always done something in such way where we say involuntarily with true spirit Wowwww…….

We recognize that the IRC is

We recognize that the IRC is the one of the greatest organizations which in differnts field help people in the worst situation and involve in every situations to save lifes and help durable goals, myself, i studied with the irc's help, I cannot forget Irc and his mission

Hi Ned! I was really curious

Hi Ned! I was really curious to read your story, and discover who it was about! The beauty of the article - and I am sure this was your intention - is that any of the colleagues in the Pakistan team could actually recognize themselves in these lines: the story of Muhammad is the story of tens of Pakistani colleagues who have worked hard in the wake of 2008 fighting and 2010 floods, and who take their job seriously, putting people's lives first. I could not understand who was Muhammad, but - after all - that's not what counts: this story is about all colleagues and friends I had the chance to work with for a few months. Greetings to all!

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