Why Isn't the World Donating More to Pakistan?

The UN says the relief effort is dangerously cash poor

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The United Nations has warned that the biggest challenge in the ongoing relief efforts for the millions displaced by flooding in Pakistan is the lack of money and supplies. Over a million Pakistanis lack even a tent to sleep in, and as many as 13.8 million have no access to clean drinking water, threatening outbreaks of serious diseases such as cholera, particularly among children. In the wake of the earthquake in Haiti, agencies and individuals around the world were far more generous, donating $1 billion USD within days. Why has the world been so much more sparing with Pakistan?

  • 'Paltry and Pathetic Response'  Former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco Marc Ginsberg writes, "UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, with the strong backing of the Obama Administration, plans to convene an emergency UN meeting to kick start international donations on August 19...with the U.S. already having directed $76 million in urgent emergency flood relief...evidenced by U.S. military helicopters running relief supplies ferried in from U.S. bases throughout the region. Unfortunately, of the $460 million deemed immediately needed by the UN for disaster relief barely 50% has actually been delivered, the lion's share from the U.S. and other western nations. Indeed, Deputy British Prime Minister Nick Clegg deemed the international response to be 'absolutely pitiful' with fully 25% of the assistance coming from the UK so far."
  • No Sudden, 'Telegenic' Loss of Life  The New York Times' Neil MacFarquhar writes, "The international outpouring after recent disasters like Haiti or the Asian tsunami in 2004 was driven partly by the huge, sudden loss of life and the striking images of rescue efforts, he said. A slow-moving flood with a death toll of about 1,500 people fails to provoke a similar reaction." UN humanitarian coordinator John Holmes adds, "An earthquake is a much more dramatic, emotional, telegenic event because it happens so quickly."
  • Americans 'Wary' of Pakistani Government  The Los Angeles Times notes, "Americans may be wary of sending more cash to a Pakistani government with limited capacity, one accused of being corrupt at home and a suspect ally in neighboring Afghanistan. Yet the U.S. government and others must step up the pace and scale of help to Pakistan. Individual donors too must open their wallets, as they did after Haiti's earthquake and the South Asian tsunami, if not directly to the Pakistani government, then to trusted private groups working there."
  • Donor Fatigue from Haiti  The New York Times staff editorial speculates, "Or, perhaps, the floods were overshadowed by the out-of-control fires in Russia or were neglected because many donors were already fatigued from the challenge of rebuilding Haiti."
  • Poor Marketing  Former United Nations Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown tells the BBC, "The leadership of Pakistan on the civilian side has gotten off to a rather muddled and slow start. It’s very hard for donor governments — let alone donor public opinion — to be entirely convinced at the seriousness of a crisis when the country’s president is filmed at his own private chateau in France or continuing with government visits to the U.K. Crises, it’s a terrible thing to say but, you know, they require disciplined marketing. There needs to be a clear message that lives are at stake and the whole of the domestic effort of the country is devoted to trying to save those lives."
  • U.S. Must 'Rally' Other Nations  The New York Times urges, "Washington is doing better than other donors, providing badly needed helicopters for rescue and supply missions, prefabricated bridges and more than $70 million in relief and resettlement funds. It should be rallying other countries, as well as private organizations and individuals, to do their fair share. But surely this country, as the richest donor with the greatest strategic interest in Pakistan, could do a lot more right now."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.