New York, N.Y. I know from living in Haiti that after more than one year from its disaster, so little has been done. It was with amazement that I discovered MetLife — based in that cool building on Bryant Park and in the Snoopy commercials — was on the ground in Pakistan in less than six months following the disaster. MetLife, which closed its acquisition of Alico late last year, is set to rebuild an entire village.
In cooperation with the Human Development Foundation (HDF), corporations respond to tragedy. This is leadership for the world.
I spoke with Salim Manzar, MetLife’s point person on the project, about their incredible work in Pakistan. Salim is CEO of the Princeton Advisory Group, LLC, a global firm that provides consulting services to the life insurance industry. Salim, originally from NWFP, Pakistan, graduated from universities in Pakistan and Canada. He worked with MetLife for several decades before founding his own advisory group. Salim told me:
Six months ago the rains came down the north of Pakistan — from the Himalayas — and washed across the country down to the desert plains of the south. The water started off as angry walls of water rushing across Pakistan, ending in new lakes miles across, the flooded areas being larger than England.
Though several thousand people have been killed by the floods, the larger issue is the millions of people who have been displaced by the floods. These people are still homeless, and many are living in the colder areas of Pakistan. Although the number of deaths was small in comparison to other major disasters, the number of those affected is higher than any other disaster zone.
It is a matter of moral imperative to serve the people whose lives and livelihood were destroyed by these devastating floods. We have collaborated with HDF as our partner. This initiative to build the model village will make it possible for the flood victims to have a better life.
Michel Khalaf, MetLife Alico MEASA Region CEO, was key in his leadership of the effort. Michel said:
MetLife Alico in MEASA is proud and honored to be part of this much needed effort to rebuild one of the most flood-affected villages in Pakistan. Our employees’ compassion and commitment to aid communities in the region will give hope and means to live a better life to 1,500 inhabitants of Budapur Misali Basti.
The floods had caused the largest number of displaced people in Pakistan since the country’s independence. Twenty million people have been affected with over 7 million actually displaced following the destruction of more than one million homes.
Batool told me:
Acumen Fund’s work in Pakistan, while not directly in disaster relief, has been invested $11.1 million since 2002 in affordable housing, financial services, agriculture solutions, and clean drinking water for communities earning less than $2 per day. Our vision is for sustainable, long term investment in social enterprises delivering essential goods and services that place dignity and respect at the forefront of our mission and work.
The most amazing thing has been to see the rise and strength of civil society organizations who are stepping up to the enormous challenge. The best work is collaborative between civil society, the private sector, supported by the public sector as well. It has the power to demonstrate a new model for how a country can respond and rebuild.
Readers wishing to contribute to this project may do so through The Human Development Foundation link. The HDF and MFF still have to raise funds for the work on the ground in Pakistan. There is still a great amount of rebuilding to be done in the region that needs additional support.
Note: Pakistan, slightly less than twice the size of California with a population of 160 million, was created in 1947 when British India split into the Muslim state of Pakistan and largely Hindu India. East Pakistan seceded in 1971, creating the separate nation of Bangladesh.
Mr. Salim Manzar established the Princeton Advisory Group, LLC after a 30-year career at MetLife where he retired in 2004 as senior vice president and chief financial officer of MetLife International, the non-U.S. operations of MetLife. After MetLife announced in March 2010 its plans to purchase Alico from AIG, Salim was asked to lead the MEASA (Middle East, Africa and South Asia) regional team for the Alico integration. Salim also serves on the boards of the Amana Mutual Funds Trust, and the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK); and has been heavily involved with relief, hunger, women’s issues and poverty alleviation initiatives in the U.S. and Pakistan over the past 10 years.
Originally published in The Huffington Post, March 14, 2011.