Dr. Rifat Zaidi talks to students at Lincoln Academy in Damariscotta about the relief effort in Pakistan.
Dr. Rifat Zaidi talks to students at Lincoln Academy in Damariscotta about the relief effort in Pakistan.
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A thousand dollars can buy a family in flood-ravaged Pakistan a simple shelter with basic sanitation. With help from the public, Rifat Zaidi, MD hopes to help a village rebuild their lives.

Dr. Zaidi, an orthopaedic surgeon with Lincoln Medical Partners in Damariscotta, is trying to raise $30,000 to aid the recovery effort in the wake of the flood this past summer that has affected about 20 million people - roughly the population of New York State - in an area the size of England.

It is a race against time, says Zaidi, with millions still without adequate shelter as winter approaches. Zaidi is working with a nonprofit foundation formed by alumni of his medical school following the disaster.

When a massive earthquake killed 87,000 people and left 3.5 million people homeless in 2005, Zaidi raised $60,000 and made three trips to Pakistan to provide medical care. Emergency physician Carl D'Amato, surgical nurse Val Drever, medical surgical nurse Holly Miller and hospitalist Judith Sandick, MD also traveled to Pakistan.

While the flood killed fewer people than the earthquake, Zaidi says the long-term effects are potentially much greater.

The Rawalpindi Medical College Overseas Foundation, Inc., the nonprofit foundation formed by Zaidi and other alumni of his medical school, hopes to rebuild 330 homes in the village of Basti Markankhel Wali.

The flooding of the Indus River, the largest river in Pakistan, scoured away whole towns, roads and nearly every type of infrastructure, including phone and electricity, in the breadbasket of Pakistan.

"My mother-in-law's village has ceased to exist," says Zaidi. Even the soil was washed away in many areas, along with this year's crops and the seed supplies for next year's plantings. Thousands of people were forced to flee with minimal possessions and wait out the flood in schools or makeshift shelters along roadways. While water levels have receded or are receding in much of the country, the United Nations has estimated that 10 million people are in urgent need with winter approaching.

The Rawalpindi Overseas Foundation chose a village in central Pakistan as the focus of their efforts. The people who live in the village are farmers whose families have lived in the area for generations.

"They are the minders of that land. They cultivate and look after that land. That land actually feeds a few thousand people," says Zaidi.

With no paid employees, the Rawalpindi Overseas Foundation can funnel all donations directly to those in need.

"I will tell you with full conviction that every dime that we receive will go toward helping people," Zaidi says.

For more information, call Zaidi at 380-2786. Donations may be sent to the Rawalpindi Medical College Overseas Foundation, Inc., care of Dr. Rifat Zaidi, Lincoln Medical Partners Orthopaedics, 39 Miles Street, Damariscotta, ME 04543.