Thursday, 19 August 2010

Pakistan needs our help

I feel a bit uneasy when I hear reports of the recent Pakistan floods. Something is missing. At first I couldn’t pinpoint what it was then, as I heard the CNN reporter for the third time mention that Ban Ki-moon calls this the worst disaster he has seen, it hit me: there is no sympathy. It is being reported in the same sensationalist way you’d report a concert with a record number of viewers.

Whilst the reporter sent to China is crying (which cold-hearted Virgo and I both found very unprofessional), the reporter in Pakistan is speaking with an excitement that makes me uncomfortable. It seems I am not the only one who has noticed the unsympathetic reactions to this massive disaster, last night I briefly heard another report that was trying to investigate why we global citizens are not really reacting to these floods. One of the reasons mentioned was that the death toll is reasonably low (if I had stayed, it seemed they were to tell us this isn’t even true). Meanwhile in an article urging us to make donations to Pakistan’s flood victims, the following is stated:

"The U.N. wants to spotlight the enormity of the disaster, which is bigger than the 2004 Asian tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, and this year's Haiti earthquake, yet has attracted far less in donations."

I think you, like me, might be surprised by this statement, especially considering the amount of support, attention, physical and financial donations and empathy that was given during the tsunami and the Haiti earthquake. It is shocking how little is being done to help this time around. From what I hear, 20% of Pakistan is under water. In a cruel twist of fate, the country being flooded has left many in desperate need of clean drinking water (don’t the powers that be have a twisted sense of humour?).

It’s time to push aside all prejudice about Pakistan as a country of terrorists, suicide bombers, or thoughts like ’they’re so used to suffering anyway’, ‘no whites/blacks/Christians are injured’, whatever it is that is blocking the outpouring of sympathy that would usually flow after a natural disaster. If you can, give, possibly to Save the Children here, or if in Sweden, follow these instructions:
"Barn i Pakistan behöver vatten, medicin och skydd nu! Många dör varje dag. Du kan vara med och rädda liv för en liten slant. Smsa BARN till 72950 och ge 200 kr. Sänd gärna vidare! Mvh Rädda Barnen"

And of course, if cash no dey, a little prayer doesn't cost a thing!


Anonymous said...

I too have reacted to the lack of sympathy shown by the media and the lack of public movement to help the people of Pakistan.
For example: after informing us that the floods in Pakistan have been called ‘worse than the Asian tsunami and the earthquake in Haiti’; instead of reading out the number the Swedish TV 4 news refers the viewers to their website to find the bank giro number for the different relief organisations. This is comparing to the (also devastating) earthquake in Haiti when they kept repeating the bank giro number several times in different ways.


Anonymous said...

I simply think it is because people are tired. It looks like we are being bombarded with disasters left right and center - the ongong ones like the annual famines, congo, wartorn places, 'flash disasters' like the tsunami and the earthquake. it's sad to see our apathy, but it seems to be human nature. we don't have the capacity to keep reacting with the same shock/apathy every single time. or mebbe i'm wrong. i don't know

Kajsa said...

Good point you make. The Pakistani catastrophe seems to get less attention also in the blogosphere.

Human suffering is human suffering.

Maya Mame said...

N, that really shows how TV4 prioritises the catastrophe. Gosh, we hardly heard anything other than 'tsunami' when that happened. Of course, a lot of Swedes died there...

Anon, I don't fully agree. I mean, weren't we equally bored of disasters and misery when the Haiti earthquake happened? I think it is more to do with the fact that we are use to misery in that specific reason, which brings me to:

Kajsa, I completely agree, human suffering is human suffering, shou;ldn't matter where or to whom it is happening.

Abena Serwaa said...

Excellent post Maya Mame...I have been wondering why the response to Pakistan has been muted.
Just yesterday I was listening to a podcast of an episode of BBC World Have Your Say that was broadcast last week. It definitely explained the problem. There seem to be a number of factors behind the Pakistan flooding apathy:
1. The feeling among some that Pakistan is a terrorist training ground
2. Donor fatigue after the Tsunami,Pakistan earthquake in 2005, Haiti,Chile,China
3. Lack of accountability in where money donated actually goes to
4. Lack of accountability in expenditure for the 2005 Pakistan disaster.

It is actually so sad that everyone has suddenly switched off when others are in need.

Interestingly, I got a birthday invitation from a doctor here in the Netherlands. It said "...I’m not asking for presents, if you want you can contribute something to the victims of the flooding in Pakistan. I will collect the donations"

Good for her!

Maya Mame said...

That's an interesting point I wouldn't have considered if you hadn't told me: accountability! I feel a slight relief that there could be an excuse which is not about lack of emotions towards Pakistanis but rather a substantive issue.

And it makes me really happy to hear that individuals, like the doctor have such big hearts that'll encourage others to help!

Anonymous said...

From Sijui:

I am one of those who would not give a dime to Pakistan, sorry but I make no apologies for it. The country has severely misplaced priorities and it paying dearly for it so let them learn the hard way. Instead of stockpiling nuclear weapons and massive amounts of military armaments that cost billions and billions of dollars, the same amount roughly that could alleviate massive amounts of suffering during this disaster, they should have invested in the civic, social and economic infrastructure that could facilitate rescue, aid and recovery during this tradgedy. Many people are as apathetic as I am hence the reason donations are at a trickle. Then yes of course the country is overrun with terrorists, every other day you hear Pakistanis bombing and maiming other Pakistanis so self inflicted human suffering is nothing new to them.

In short you cannot fault people for forming perceptions, be they negative or positive and obviously people are expressing them through their wallets or lack thereof.

Maya Mame said...

Hey Sijui
So glad to see you're still around!

I understand what you are saying, a Pakistani lady basically said the same thing to me. In part, I agree that it is ridiculous that huge amounts of money are being invested in warfare rather than infrastructure and a better environment for the people in Pakistan.

Still I feel very sorry for the innocent Pakistani who is suffering in the floods and not getting any help because of what the 'big men' in Pakistan are doing.

Please keep commenting, I've missed you!


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