Sunday, August 22, 2010

Defining Moment For Local & Global Community

An earthquake suddenly brings destruction and attracts quick aid from the donors, while a flood related destruction is slower and therefore aid comes slowly. That is why the disastrous mega floods in Pakistan have attracted considerably less aid than the earthquake in Haiti earlier this year or the earthquake in Kashmir in 2005.
Nevertheless, the causes of slower donor response to the flooded country could be manifold. The image deficit of the charities, misappropriation of funds, inappropriate warehousing of perishable food in other countries following similar disasters, extremely irrelevant administrative costs of many charitable organizations and previous “disasters-profiteering” by selfish people are the main reasons for a slower than normal response from the international community. Most probably, Islamophobia, image deficit or donor fatigue syndrome resulted in such a critically slow response from the donors.
The investigative tour by the UN Secretary General has made it clear to the world that the floods are actually presenting a scene of a slow motion tsunami-- now covering an area of the size of England. One fifth of the country’s land including tens of thousands of villages is under water. So far there are 1600 reported deaths due to the calamity. There are growing health concerns for those surviving without proper shelter, food or clean drinking water. The people and infrastructure in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan suffered  most of the fatalities on account of the driving rain and flash flooding.
The floods have expanded in the southern lowlands which are famous for agriculture. Highly fertile cultivable land is almost barren now due to siltage problem. Approximately, 200,000 cows, sheep, buffalo, goats and donkeys have already gone missing, but the toll will possibly be in the millions including poultry. Initial assessment suggests the crops worth more than a billion dollars have been lost. Current estimates suggest as many as 20 million people and 160,000 square kilometers of land — have been affected. Up to 8 million affectees need critical care. There are more than 3.5 million children who are in high risk category from deadly water-borne diseases in Pakistan following the country's worst floods. A lack of clean drinking water, medicine and vitamins makes everyone vulnerable. Aid agencies are working with government officials to assess the damage and deliver humanitarian assistance despite bad weather and damaged infrastructure.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon claims to have seen many natural disasters around the world, but nothing like the one in Pakistan. Twenty million people have been affected by the flood.
Mr. Ban implored the international community to increase aid to the country. The challenges are absolutely massive. Clean drinking water is desperately awaited to stop the spread of diseases. The distribution of supplies has been hampered by severe damage to the country's infrastructure, with roads and bridges washed away or blocked by landslides. It is estimated that it would take five years and $15bn to recover and rebuild. But, the UN says that several hundred billion dollars will be needed in order to rebuild the country.
The United States, Saudi Arabia, China, Afghanistan, Kuwait, OIC, Australia, EU countries, India and many others have begun pouring funds and other donations. Private organizations and groups of individuals are busy raising funds and collect donations in cash or kind for the ultimate benefit of suffering human beings.
In fact, coping with a challenging situation, such as this, means a fight (hard work) or a flight (run away).
Many G8/G20 nations are stuck with their own debt load. Canada runs a deficit and has a spiraling debt burden and is passing through recovery mode due to prolonged recession. On the other hand, Pakistan has been hit by terrible floods and its weak leaders have done little to help. But the world should sympathize with the flood victims as they suffer the most from natural disaster and the incompetent regime of Pakistan. Since, the flood damage is extensive and unprecedented, the international community including Canada should do more.
Sadly, Pakistan suffers from some sort of image deficit due to international media’s irresponsible and negative approach towards Pakistan’s political and economic turmoil. The negative publicity has damaged the country’s worldwide image beyond an easy fix. Malicious or baseless labeling affects how we perceive things because it stigmatizes people in other’s eyes. Labels not only bias perceptions, they can also change reality. And unless the signals are loud and clear, we tend to miss them. In fact, prejudices influence how we notice and interpret events.
Nevertheless, the Canadians are very generous and helpful, yet the sheer number of recent catastrophes is just taking a toll on their own savings. Apart from the negative propaganda, a population of thirty three million plus Canadians can easily manage to contribute and donate at least $100 each for the noble cause towards the flood victims. The figure instantly becomes “Thirty Three Hundred Million Dollars.” All of a sudden, there comes a big jump in the pledged help. This is how Canada can be ranked number one among the donor nations with regard to generosity in the time of need. “A friend in need is a friend indeed.”
Fortunately, pursuant to Mr. Ban Ki Moon’s advice, there is a steady rise in donations. Pakistan has obtained $815.58 million as aid so far. Europian Union has pledged $180 million, the US $150 million, Saudi Arabia $124.29 million, UK $100 million. Canada has increased its share from $2 million to $35 million.
Although, Pakistani officials struggled to cope with the mega flooding of the century, yet the "Administrative Paralysis" throughout the country was severely painful as there was a display of unpreparedness, poor coordination, and a lazy response. Astonishingly, no strategy existed to minimize the adverse effects of the ongoing catastrophe. Thousands of villagers stranded by Sindh floods are highly prone to the dacoits who snatch their cattle and currency as well as ornaments. Yet, amid public anger and heavy criticism, the inefficient authorities tried to carry out 'Rescue & Relief Operation.' The military, however, led the operation successfully despite the rampage of armed thieves.
Furthermore, trees have been cut by the selfish people along the embankment of the rivers causing major leaks. District administration is good for nothing without a fully authorized deputy commissioner as in the old days.
The irony is, the whole world has been undertaking de-flooding projects and constructing dams to avert floods but in Pakistan billions of rupees have been spent on the preparation of the feasibility study for Kalabagh dam which still remains a dream and a mystery.
Since Pakistan’s plight is under the global spotlight at the present hour, it is about time to seek international help to set up the latest flood warning system to avoid any repeat of messy disorganized behaviour in future crises.
Most importantly, the devastated nation should have Kalabagh dam as soon as possible and Land Reforms should be in place for fair redistribution of land to the farmers on merit, Secondly, a total elimination of dacoits (dakoo-community) through a well coordinated police-military combined crackdown is absolutely necessary. Thirdly, deforestation must be declared a severely punishable crime and any encroachment over the dried river beds must be discouraged with heavy fine to the violators. Fourthly, a cut in salary and other facilities for all parliamentarians and a reduction in cabinet size provincially and federally is highly recommended. Fifthly, there is a need for an independent foreign policy for uplifting Pakistan’s image across the world. And finally, a speedy 'Rehabilitation Work' to comfort the displaced people should be carried out on strict merit.

UPDATED: Canadian Government is now willing to match dollar for dollar towards- all 'flood donations to Pakistan' by the Canadians. (Thank you!  Canada)

1 comment:

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