Monday, August 23, 2010

As Flood Waters Rise in Pakistan, Donations Remain Stagnant

When Haiti was devastated by an earthquake back on January 12, 2010 the mobilization of donations began immediately. The end result: over $500 million by the end of January. Celebrities donated massive amounts of money, telethons were set up, the general mood was to help Haiti despite the sagging American economy. The outpouring of support (both monetary and otherwise) was staggering.

Fast forward to July, 2010 when floods began to ravage the country of Pakistan. The donations to relief efforts are paltry: just $10,000 in the month following the beginning of flooding. That's 0.03% of what was raised for Haiti in the days following the earthquake. Why the disparity?

This is the very question Max Fisher delves into over at The Atlantic. Quickly dismissing the American economy and donor fatigue (unemployment is lower than it was back in January and donations to the Kashmir earthquake of 2005, just nine months after the 2004 tsunami, were quite generous), he look at four possible other reasons. He says that Pakistan, not being a Christian nation, lacks the network of Western charities that Haiti benefited from. Additionally, many see Pakistan as an enemy, many see Islam as an enemy, and floods do not garner as much television time as earthquakes or tsunamis.

In the comments section of the post there are many folks saying, "Pakistan has not been the best country to us, where's Bin Laden, it will just end up in the hands of the Pakistani government, etc." To begin with, diplomatic relations with countries are dictated by those in power in the country, and believe me, they are just fine. It is the regular citizens that suffer and need aid. Saying that Pakistanis should give up Bin Laden is ludicrous, as your average Pakistani has no idea where Bin Laden is. It's as if Boston suffered some type of catastrophe and aid was denied them until the citizens told the government where Whitey Bulger was. Worrying about money ending up in the hands of the Pakistani government is a valid worry, but one that was also present during Haitian relief. Both governments are riddled with corruption and human rights violations.

Given recent attitudes towards Islam in this country, I have a sneaking suspicion that this plays a large role in the lack of donations to the Pakistani relief efforts. The flood has already displaced 5 million people and continues to grow. If we snub Pakistan because of their perceived attitudes towards us, it will only further destabilize an already unstable country in the Middle East, considerably undermining American efforts at stability in the region. Those who cannot separate everyday Pakistanis from the corrupt ISI and government are doing themselves and the suffering citizens of Pakistan a massive disservice.

How to Donate:
Photo - Flood victims awaiting evacuation in Pakistan (Guardian UK)

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