Growing Catastrophe in Pakistan

US Army Staff Sargeant Matthew Kingsbury (R) from Bravo Company 2/3 Aviation and Pakistani soldiers sit on the cargo bay ramp of a CH-47 heavy-lift helicopter while looking down at a flooded area while in flight over Swat Valley on August 10, 2010. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

Headlines will fade, but the lives of millions of Pakistanis affected by the torrential rains and what can only be described as this generation's worst flooding will be disrupted for years to come.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced last week that Pakistan has been set back decades by the flooding. To date, 14 million people have been displaced and 1,600 killed—along with hundreds of thousands of livestock killed as well.

According to a UN official, the magnitude of the flooding surpasses that of the 2004 tsunami, the 2005 South Asian earthquake, and this year's earthquake in Haiti. While the number of casualties is lower than these other natural disasters, the number of people affected by the catastrophic flooding has caused both Pakistani and foreign officials to call for a global appeal to help the survivors through financial aid and donation of non-perishable items.

As the weather clears in some areas, helicopters, including US aircraft, have begun to resume flights to help the flood victims. Recently images of US soldiers partnering with Pakistani rescuers have surfaced in the mainstream media, showing both parties providing survivors with essentials such as food, clothing, and medicine. Critics of US involvement in Pakistan agree that a softer side of the US is seen in its efforts to aid flood victims.

Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari has returned to the country after an official visit to Europe, with government officials dismissing public criticism of his absence.

The president is holding meetings with emergency chiefs and is expected to visit flooded areas later in the week.

Zardari, the widower of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto (and whose rule has been mired in controversy), enraged his critics by going ahead with visits to meet leaders in Britain and France as the catastrophe was unfolding.