Who cares about Pakistan?
By Jude Sheerin BBC News
Donations have been sluggish to the Pakistan floods appeals, as they were back in 2005 when the part of Kashmir the country administers was torn apart by an earthquake. The BBC News website asked some experts to comment on possible reasons why.
Dr Marie Lall, Pakistan expert at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and senior lecturer at the Institute of Education, says: “I think there is donor fatigue all around. The  Indian Ocean tsunami, the Burmese Cyclone [Nargis, 2008], the  Pakistan earthquake, and [this year's] Haiti earthquake. It is getting too much; we are in a recession and people are short of money.”
Rebecca Wynn, Pakistan specialist for UK-based aid agency Oxfam, says: “Many donors have made substantial contributions in humanitarian assistance to Pakistan over the years, particularly in response to the conflict-related displacements over the last two years. Of course, the fact that the people of Pakistan have been hit time and again by disaster is even more reason to give.”
Dr Elizabeth Ferris, senior fellow at the US-based Brookings Institution, a foreign policy think tank, says: “It should also be noted that the international humanitarian system isn’t set up to deal with more than one major crisis a year. USAID, for example, committed one-third of its annual budget to the Haitian earthquake response. And among the general public there may be a feeling of, ‘Well, I donated to the victims of the Haitian earthquake and Haiti is a far needier country than Pakistan.’”
Yale University economics professor Dean Karlan, an expert on charitable giving, says: “Corruption concerns may explain why giving is lower to developing countries than many would like it to be, but it does not explain why there is less money pouring into Pakistan now than does to disaster relief causes in other developing countries with similar governance issues.”
Dr Marie Lall says: “People in Pakistan are sceptical the government will be transparent. But they are giving to philanthropic organisations. In the UK, I think people are sceptical of [non-governmental organisations'] overheads and costs. They don’t know which ones are transparent and reliable, even though local organisations such as TCF [The Citizens' Foundation] are doing an incredible job.”
Dr Elizabeth Ferris says: “People are always sceptical about their money reaching flood victims, particularly in countries with reputations for corruption. But Haiti didn’t have a very good reputation in this regard. [Pakistan] President [Asif Ali] Zardari trip to Europe [during the floods] was not a good move. For a few days, that was the ‘story’ of the Pakistani floods, which doesn’t inspire people to be generous, particularly in this economic climate.”
Dr Marie Lall says: “British Prime Minister David Cameron’s comments in India [when he said Islamabad promoted the export of terror] did not help.”
Dr Elizabeth Ferris says: “People are less likely to donate to any country seen as a haven for terrorism. And more generally, the fact that so much Western news coverage in recent years about Pakistan has been negative, stressing its links with the conflict in Afghanistan. I think this is the major reason for the slow public response – the image of Pakistan in our media. There may also be a feeling, particularly in the US, that Islamic governments and charities should be stepping up to the plate to donate.”
Rebecca Wynn says: “This disaster has come at a bad time, following the financial crisis and the Haiti earthquake. Many donors made huge commitments to Haiti, so may find it hard to fund another major disaster, particularly in the same year.”
Dr Marie Lall says: “Timing may be a factor, but I think it’s more to do with not realising the scale of the disaster, and the attitude by the British government; the UK should be leading the aid effort, given the Pakistani diaspora here and the fact that we need Pakistan for the war in Afghanistan.”
Professor Dean Karlan says: “Sudden events seem to generate more funds. A flood (and droughts) happen gradually and build. There isn’t any one single day in which news is huge. For the same reason, this pushes the story away from the media spotlight. But massive and sudden earthquakes or tsunamis draw our immediate attention and shock us.”
Dr Elizabeth Ferris says: “It’s important to note that in general people are likely to give more to emergencies occurring in countries geographically closer to them – although this didn’t hold true for the tsunami. But when you trace contributions over time, you find that Americans and Canadians are more likely to respond to disasters in the Western hemisphere while Europeans tend to be more responsive to African countries (and their former colonies, in particular).”
Dr Marie Lall says: “This was not one cataclysmic event, but one which grew over three weeks. The fact that 25% of the country was or is under water is not understood. The low numbers of dead, relatively speaking, mask the disaster on the ground. The crisis has destroyed crops, dead livestock and damaged homes and infrastructure. Food prices are through the roof and there won’t be a normal harvest. It will get worse. Farmers will starve.”
BBC website readers have been sending in their views. Here are some of their comments.
A lot of people I know feel that some of the very wealthy Muslim countries (Saudi Arabia etc) should step in and help those who are their religious brethren rather than always expecting the currently cash strapped countries who always give to keep on giving. Donor fatigue of some type but more that we are fatigued with always being the ones expected to help. Also celebrities such as Bono and Bob Geldof are always banging on about how we should give our money when if they each gave 50% of their money, a lot of help could be given. Fleur, Devon, UK
I believe donations from the West will perk up when we read that it has been confirmed that Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia have donated sizeable sums. I read this morning that India, traditionally Pakistan’s ‘enemy’ , has offered help, but no news of similar offers of help from Muslim countries. C Burns, Longfield, UK
I don’t think it’s necessary to donate any money to Pakistan because there’s enough money – and support – available within the Islamic community (particularly from the oil-rich Gulf states and Saudi Arabia). The Saudis spend millions of petro-dollars every year to help get mosques built all over the world. I’m sure the Saudis alone could fund the whole recovery of their Islamic compatriots in Pakistan, particularly as they employ so many guest workers from Pakistan. However, I’m pleased to see that the Pakistan government have accepted aid from India. I am supporting the Haitian appeal – these desperate people don’t have the support of wealthy Islamic countries. Rupert Templeman, Bournemouth, Dorset, UK
Pakistan has a long history of corruption and military rule. People of Pakistan have been suffring in general from a lack of basic necessities. After 65 years of independence it is still under developed due to bad management. The most likely reason for the slow response for help, I believe, is due to its links to terrorism. Bhupendra Shah, North Bergen New Jersey, USA
There are many good explanations as to why aid has been slow to trickle into Pakistan given the sheer extent of the disaster. However, next to Israel, Pakistan has probably the worst international image around right now. Pakistan is unfortunately associated with Afghanistan, Bin Laden and Mullah Omar. Another important dynamic not quite appreciated is that there is a significant Pakistan-rooted diaspora worldwide in many Western countries and richer Arab Gulf countries. After 9/11 there has been significant tension and unease between the Pakistan-based communities and the host countries, due to the perceived ‘homegrown’ terror threat. Therefore, in the West, I think the dynamic of negative views towards Pakistanis amongst their communities rather than just a negative view of the nation is at play. Raja Mohammed, Surrey, UK
Donations have been sluggish I think because Pakistan spends billions on its military and yet cries out for help because of a natural disaster. Their government needs to sort its priorities out. Yvette, Kent, UK
This is a civilised country with nuclear power and missiles. A monsoon season comes every year. It’s no volcano, no earthquake, and not a one-off natural disaster. Chris Jeffery, Odessa, Ukraine
If they can afford to be a nuclear country and boast about it, then they should be able to look after their own people. Ohanes, UK
Apart from various reasons given, there is the perception that historically the Pakistani government and politicians have deliberately misdirected aid for humanitarian causes to other channels like in military projects. Obviously people and foreign governments somehow lack trust in Pakistan. Satya S Issar, Wraysbury, Staines, UK
I think the fact that Pakistan has spent great sums on nuclear weapons aimed at India instead of preparing for catastrophic monsoons is one part of the explanation why donations are so low. The rest of the world has run out of sympathy for Pakistan. Fredrik Andersson, Gothenburg, Sweden
These “experts” are so far from the mark it’s hard to believe. Countries like India and Pakistan are not poor – any country that can fund a nuclear program and have the massive armed forces they have, should be able to look after themselves. Plus there’s the ex-pat factor – there’s a large community in the UK who think of themselves as Pakistanis first and they will be giving through other ways and means. Tony, Leeds, UK
It is very interesting to see how much fellow Muslim countries are giving in aid, if anything at all. The mega rich Arab oil states have given very little, apart from Saudi Arabia who has donated $40 million or so – which is not a lot considering how wealthy they are. A J Wawn, Bedford, UK
Any country that sends its top politician on a jolly around Europe and insists on wasting money on nuclear weapons in my opinion has money enough to look after its own. James, Cheshire, UK
Lack of media coverage and lack of heart-wrenching stories. It’s all very much ‘another day in Pakistan’. It needs/needed to be the first and main news story on every news channel, with numbers for people to understand the scale – e.g.,number of cattle or other animals dead, as a proportion of the number needed by the country. Satellite images detailing the flooding perhaps. The news story currently lacks ‘drama’. I give regularly to charities and causes such as this but even I didn’t fully appreciate the scale until this week. Loz, UK
When the Pakistani government chooses to spend their revenue funding nuclear weapons and maintaining the sixth largest armed forces in the world they have no right to plead poverty when the monsoon is heavier than normal. Haiti were already one of the poorest countries in the world when an unforeseeable earthquake hit them – they deserve charitable giving. It is hard to feel the same way about Pakistan. Dave Fulton, Seaham, UK
The ‘elephant in the room’ is that Pakistan is not a ‘popular’ country, because of its negative associations with terrorism. People may also feel negatively towards poor, developing countries which spend billions on arms, including nuclear weapons. C Matthews, Birmingham, UK
While acknowledging the floods exist, the problem is that there are simply too many people living in a flood plain. They chose to live there. The good times were good. This is a bad time. We should make provision in the good times (for the bad will always come – nature’s like that). If there were fewer people, there would be more food to go round, more space on higher ground, and the aid agencies would have an easier task. It’s a basic problem. Haiti was similar. C A Turner, Salisbury, UK
4 Reasons Why Americans Aren’t Giving for Pakistan Flood Relief
Aug 23 2010, 10:18 AM ET | Comment
After the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which displaced 1 million people and came as the U.S. economy continued to crumble, the American Red Cross joined with U.S. cell phone carriers to give Americans the ability to donate a few dollars by sending a simple text message. The campaign raised $32 million within days, generating as much as $200,000 per hour, a relatively small piece of the $2.5 billion that relief groups would raise for Haiti by late March. Some aid groups warned that they were so awash in cash they were incapable of distributing it all.
In August 2010, a similar text message campaign was launched in response to the flooding in Pakistan, which has so far displaced 5 million people and put 13 million, particularly children, at risk of water-borne diseases such as cholera because they lack access to clean drinking water. The United Nations has declared the flooding, which is expected to worsen, already worse than the Haiti earthquake, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and the 2005 Kashmir earthquake combined. But the Red Cross’s recent text message effort yielded only $10,000, about 0.03 percent of what it earned for Haiti.
The disappointing campaign has been another in a series of alarming reports from aid groups and even the United Nations that they do not have enough money. The UN says it only has half of the $460 million it requires for its relief mission, with Care International, one of the aid groups leading the effort in Pakistan, reporting 15 percent of its already modest $10 million goal. The amount of foreign donations given per flood victim is very low compared to other such disasters. The figures for the Haiti earthquake, tsunami, and Kashmir earthquake were $1087.33, $1249.80, and $388.33 respectively. For the Pakistan floods, the world has given only $16.36 per victim. These shortfalls have led many to ask a macabre question. Why did the world, particularly U.S. individual donors, give so much for Haiti but show so little concern for Pakistan?
The two most common answers are the poor economy and donor fatigue. While they are certainly playing a role, these two factors provide an incomplete picture. The economy was just as bad in January as it is now, with U6 joblessness unchanged and unemployment actually decreasing from 9.7 to 9.5 percent. The much-cited “donor fatigue” claim argues that people are currently short on expendable cash or even human sympathy after the Haiti earthquake of seven months ago. However, if donor fatigue were really such a powerful force, then the world would not have responded with an overwhelmingly generous $5 billion in aid to the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, which occurred just over nine months after the 2004 tsunami. Clearly there is something more at play. Here are four factors more plausibly contributing to the low individual U.S. giving rate in response to the Pakistan floods.
(1) Pakistan lacks Haiti’s network of Western charities. Pakistan, particularly the flooded areas, has a global reputation for being dangerous. It is also, of course, Muslim. As a result, it lacks Haiti’s pre-existing network of Christian humanitarian organizations and missionaries that have been growing in the country for decades. Those Christian missionaries in Haiti, predominantly Americans doing a combination of religious and humanitarian work, were so important because they could use American churches as a vast grassroots network to communicate Haiti’s plight to Americans and especially to raise money. But Pakistan has no such large-scale, long-term presence, which had made it far more difficult to tap into the vast fundraising resource of Christian America.
(2) Pakistan doesn’t look like a friend to many Americans. Although it has nothing to do with the floods, Pakistan has had a spate of recent bad press in America. The Wikileaks document dump in July brought national attention to the long-held concerns of U.S. intelligence officials that factions in Pakistan’s military intelligence service (ISI) may be sponsoring some of the Taliban militants responsible for killing 1,241 Americans. The flood victims, many of whom are children, have nothing to do with the duplicitous practices of the ISI, and extremism in Pakistan could be curbed dramatically by a robust U.S. humanitarian response. However, many Americans are likely wondering why they should voluntarily shed their increasingly scant disposable income to help a country that is far from a robust ally. Even before the Wikileaks story, a Gallup poll of Americans found overwhelmingly negative attitudes toward Pakistan.
(3) Islam is not popular in America right now. Pakistan is one of the world’s largest Muslim states. That puts it at a disadvantage in the U.S., where the recent controversy over the Cordoba Islamic cultural center planned for lower Manhattan has generated alarmingly widespread Islamophobia. Groups have begun protesting mosques and Islamic family centers across the country. Recent polling reports that only 55 percent of Americans call Muslims “loyal Americans,” 32 percent say Muslims should be blocked from running for president, and 28 say they should be forbidden from joining the Supreme Court. An all-time high of 18 percent believe President Obama is Muslim, which is widely seen as an expression of rising hostility towards Muslims. The polling shows Islam to be especially unpopular among U.S. conservatives, many of whom are part of the same Christian humanitarian network that was so active in responding to Haiti.
(4) The floods make for bad TV. As many in the U.S. have pointed out, the flooding in Pakistan has received light and undramatic TV news coverage relative to Haiti and other humanitarian disasters. The New York Times’ Neil MacFarquhar described the floods as not being as sufficiently “dramatic, emotional, [or] telegenic” as the earthquakes and tsunamis that so opened American wallets. Others have described the floods as a “slow motion” disaster that cannot be effectively conveyed in a single photograph or piece of video. Just as importantly, reporters do not have the same freedom of mobility Pakistan as they had in Haiti, both because Haiti is so close to the U.S. east coast and because of the danger of traveling in some regions of Pakistan.
The U.S. State Department and the United Nations understand that swift and full response to the flooding isn’t just a matter of direst importance for millions of innocent Pakistanis, it’s also a moment when global security problems can be improved or worsened significantly based on our response. But for individual donors to mobilize, we will have to acknowledge and address the the factors that are now inhibiting individual giving. People will have to be convinced that Pakistanis are not the enemy, that Islam is not hostile, and that the humanitarian damage from this flood is real and urgent.
Why is the world unmoved by the plight of Pakistan?
Angry flood survivors are turning to a banned Islamist charity, reports Andrew Buncombe from central Punjab
Friday, 13 August 2010
Surrounded by brown, fast-shifting water on all sides, the 40 or so families in the village-turned-island had received no food, no medicine and no news as to when they might be rescued.
“We’re dying of hunger,” shrieked the woman, Sughra Bibi, as volunteers on the boat handed over plastic bags of lentils and cartons of milk to the villagers who gathered around her. One of them shouted out: “We don’t care if it’s the chief minister or the prime minister, but no one is sending anything to us. We are only waiting for God’s help.”
Across a huge swathe of central Punjab, Pakistan’s famously fertile agricultural belt, now besieged by unprecedented floods, such scenes are being played out a thousand times or more. While countless numbers have by now been rescued from the waters, hundreds remain cut off from dry land.
Both the rescued and the stranded are hot and angry, tired and bewildered, having seen their livelihoods destroyed and struggling now with just the barest of assistance from the authorities. Even if they had heard the news, few would have been moved by President’s Asif Ali Zardari’s belated return to the country and his appearance at a photo opportunity yesterday in the south, where he handed out supplies.
Here, amid the small villages west of the city of Multan, home of the country’s Prime Minister, Yousaf Gilani, everyone tells the same story as to what happened four days ago: the waters came silently during the night, like a thief slipping into the village. Those who heeded warnings of the anticipated surge had gathered together what they could, and moved themselves to higher ground. Others awoke to find themselves scrambling for their lives amid a landscape of shimmering water where once there had been fields. All they could do was wait for the rescue boats.
The boat which The Independent accompanied flew the black and white banner of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the supposedly banned Islamic charity, accused by the UN Security Council of being a front for militants who allegedly planned and carried out the 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai.
In this natural disaster, as in several before, the Lahore-based group has played a central role delivering aid, rescuing people and providing emergency medical help. With the army and civilian rescue teams utterly overstretched by the scale of the disaster – now estimated to affect a quarter of the country – the charity’s efforts have been embraced by the public. When they deliver food or rescue somebody, they ensure that people know who is providing this help.
“We are taking out food to people who are stranded,” said Navid Umar, a friendly but serious young man from Lahore, who was the group’s leader. “We’re doing 25 trips a day.”
The journey to reach the stranded villagers cut through an unlikely landscape of flooded buildings and verdant date palms, half-submerged by the water, past houses on scraps of land where people lay on charpoy beds and waited for the water to recede.
Elsewhere, small groups struggled through the floods to try and reach help, belongings balanced on their heads, feeling their feet uncertainly in the current. At one point, a man guided his wife, who was covered in a bright white burqa, through a long stretch of water that came up to their waists. Children, oblivious to the nature of the crisis, splashed and played.
It was blisteringly hot, even by the furnace-like standards of a south Asian summer, and on one journey a young woman lifted into the boat to be transported to the “mainland” fainted from the heat. It was suggested that her family try and cool her down by fanning her, but the only thing to use was a slightly sodden Jamaat-ud-Dawa pamphlet, proclaiming the charity’s good deeds. The family gladly took it and started to waft it back and forth in front of her face as she lay quietly, her head tilted back.
Aside from the heat, the rescue mission was made more difficult, said Mr Umar, by the likelihood of snakes in the water and the amount of weeds and debris that kept becoming entangled around the propeller shaft of the boat’s outboard motor. He said that several times the boat had become grounded and that on one occasion they found themselves stuck on the roof of a flooded house.
In addition, yesterday was also the first day of Ramadan, the month-long fast during which Muslims are not permitted to eat or drink between sunrise and sunset. Islamic teaching makes exceptions for the ill, or else those involved in such emergencies, but the volunteers on the boat said they were observing the fast. Indeed, even though he was delivering food to those in need, Mr Umar appeared a little unsure whether they should actually be taking it.
“Are you fasting,” he asked a little sternly of one man who was standing in dirty brown water up to chest. The man, seemingly bewildered, replied: “No, not in these conditions.”
Mr Umar was not convinced and demanded to know why. The man sheepishly smiled and headed off with his bag of lentils.
Indeed, Mr Umar appeared to relish the challenge that confronted him and felt no need in any way to dilute his religious obligations. He said that on occasions he and his team had been unable to fulfil all of the five daily prayers according to schedule – catching up the missed one later, as is permitted – but often they would steer their boat towards a piece of land, get out and pray. Asked why a merciful God would permit such deadly, devastating floods, he replied without hesitation: “It is a test for the pious. For those who are not pious, it is a punishment.”
While the men from Jamaat were at the forefront of the rescue efforts, they were not the only ones helping the needy of central Punjab. Civilian rescue teams were in attendance, as were the army and, rather incongruously, a group of adult, uniformed Scouts, complete with scarves and woggles.
While followers of Lord Baden-Powell may have had the best uniforms, it was the army that had the best equipment, and a large green truck of the 9th Balouch Regiment thundered through the flood waters, carrying people and sacks of food that had been donated by the local Lions Club.
“The water on this side is going down but on the other side it may be rising,” said Mohammed Arshad, a 25-year army veteran, who was also not eating or drinking. “Just two days ago the water was up to the windscreen.”
Yet while the water may be slowly receding, at least here, the anger and frustration of people is not. Tens of thousands of people, who had little before the floods arrived, have been evacuated, dropped off at emergency camps in Multan and nearby Muzaffargarh, or, more likely, forced to find shelter on the side of the road leading away from the floods where countless families are camped out. Elsewhere across Pakistan, more rain is predicted and several cities in the southern province of Sindh still risk having their flood defences breached.
About five miles from the floodwater’s edge, a group of 38 families from Baseera, all of them kiln-workers, had taken over a sandy hillock. There was no water, no shade, and unlike other families who had managed to save their livestock – buffalo, camels and cattle – this community had just two tethered goats. Each family was occupying a tiny makeshift home constructed from two rope beds and a mat. “All we are left with is what you can see,” said Mehboob Ahmed, one of the villagers.
Everyone agreed that they would return as soon as they could, as soon as the water that had taken their homes had gone. They also agreed that these terrible floods were like nothing anyone had ever witnessed before.
Except, perhaps, for Mallick Yaru. Across the string of besieged communities, people spoke of the elderly man who had witnessed the floods of 1929, which also devastated this area and other parts of the country. He was 85, 90 perhaps even 100 years old, they said, and he lived in a village called Chowkgodar, eight miles away, where he had built a mosque on land that he owned.
At the mosque, Mr Yaru was indeed to be found, a wispy, white-haired old man who said he was 85 and resting on a charpoy. Yes, he said, he remembered the floods of 1929. There were fewer people here back then, but the waters had torn through the villages. He was only a boy of four or five at the time, but he insisted that he remembered the floods very clearly. “Those floods that came in 1929 were nothing like this,” he declared. “These are very much