2010 could go down in history as the year of natural and environmental disasters. We’ve witnessed earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, wildfires and a drought in Russia, a devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and now one fifth of Pakistan is submerged under water due to floods leaving more than 20 million people without potable water, food, shelter and medicine.
The United Nations general secretary, Ban Ki-moon, called this latest disaster a “slow-motion tsunami,” and appealed for swift aid.
"Make no mistake, this is a global disaster," Ban said at the UN general assembly. "Pakistan is facing a slow-motion tsunami. Its destructive powers will accumulate and grow with time," he warned.
Relief agencies say the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Pakistan is greater than this year's earthquake in Haiti; however, relief for Pakistan may be a long time coming.
"Although governments have been coming forward with increasing generosity, the public response has not been the immediate outpouring of generosity that we've seen for Haiti and the tsunami five years ago," the U.N. Under Secretary John Holmes said.
According to a CBS news report, sixteen days after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, aid commitments totaled $1.4 billion. Sixteen days after Pakistan's floods began, promises added up to just $200 million.
Yet despite the heart-wrenching television images
broadcast across the globe showing massive destruction and enormous human suffering, the world has been slow to react to calls for aid. Why has Pakistan been forsaken?
The most common answer to the slow response is “donor fatigue.” Many believe that there have been too many disasters in one year, and donors have reached their limit in giving, especially since many still suffer from the effects of the financial crisis. Another factor has been a low death toll. But Pakistan's tarnished image plays a major role, according to a few Pakistani Americans I’ve spoken to.
“Zardari’s government is corrupt,” said Ali Khan, a financial analyst from San Jose. “Many people do not believe that their contributions will reach the right people,” he added.
Another Pakistani American I’ve spoken to placed the blame for the slow response on the anti-Muslim sentiments sweeping the Western world.
Meanwhile, the United States has pledged an additional $60 million to the U.N. flood-relief effort in Pakistan, bringing its contribution to $150 million in a move designed to encourage other governments and private donors to boost their aid.
In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has pledged $124.29 million in aid for Pakistan’s flood relief campaign, surpassing the western economic giants - and Islamabad’s allies in the war against terror – according to Al Arabiya TV. The UAE has also been leading a massive relief campaign to transport food and medicine to flood-stricken remote areas in Pakistan. Oil-rich Kuwait however, has been criticized for it’s meager $10 million contribution.
Arab media has given the crisis extensive coverage and has played a major role in creating awareness during the holy month of Ramadan, a month known for giving.
Weather forecasts indicate that there could be four more weeks of rain, which could exasperate the situation even further.
We at Link TV have a set up a page on our website to keep you updated with the news in Pakistan and provide you with a useful guide so that you too can contribute in some way in the saving and rebuilding of lives there.