The UN says the number of people suffering from the massive floods in Pakistan â€” an estimated 20 million â€” could exceed the combined total of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2005 Kashmir earthquake. But where there was massive generosity in response to those tragedies, in the past week there have been some stories about the lack of donations to Pakistan after the floods that threaten those millions of lives. The consequences of Pakistan losing 700,000 hectares of crops also may be felt both locally and abroad. 1/5 of the area of Pakistan is affected: so why the lack of donations?
Amongst the internal recriminations, the international media consensus seems to be that it is due to Pakistan’s bad image abroad. With its name linked to terror, dodgy security services and ineffective government, there is a certain case to be made but I suspect that is only a contributing reason.
The twin main reasons I believe to be the problem are: too small day 1 death toll (only about 2000 dead currently), and a difficulty of getting good TV pictures for the media to play wall-to-wall. A lack of other news also helped the Asian Tsunami (I know of one news editor who said: “that tsunami really got us through Christmas…”); celebrity endorsement helped the Haiti earthquake with Bill Clinton and Wyclef Jean heavily attached to any news.
700,000 homes have been badly damaged with about half of those entirely destroyed. 20 million people don’t have clean drinking water, with most of those not sure where their next meal is coming from, and nowhere safe or warm to sleep. If they don’t die of disease or starvation, many will never find their homes again as the landscape has been re-written. Their crops, domesticated animals and livelihood are all gone. The destruction is long term; the economy will be ruined for years after the final wave of death from disease is gone.
There is one way to fix the international community’s lack of response: