Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Pakistan Flood of 2010 and Relief Aid

There are so many natural disasters calling out for attention and help that it is sometimes difficult to decide which one should be addressed in the media on a sustained basis.  Too often, the disaster occurs someplace far away where, for many reasons, there is little public attention.  For example, the recent volcano eruption in Indonesia, or maybe the volcano eruption in Guatemala in May 2010, followed by severe flooding caused by a hurricane.  Then, as I write this, there are devastating mudslides along the Pan-American highway in Guatemala close to the villages of Tecpan and Nahuala killing at least 44 people, leaving 40,000 people homeless and another 10,000 evacuated.

The earthquake in Haiti in January 2010 and the needed relief and development has stayed in the news for much of 2010, although it has been moved from the front pages of the newspapers and off the television news reports.  Yet, as I wrote earlier, the need will persist, and there will be reports about whether the United Nations funds, the government grants of aid, and the work of the NGOs in the area have been effective, and whether there has been any level of transparency and accountability in connection with those efforts.

The flooding in Pakistan which started in June 2010 has produced a slightly different story and perspective, particularly with regard to outside aid.  The map displayed in this post depicts the level of flooding and the affected area due to that flooding.  Because of the level of devastation and the effects of the continued flooding, the statistics regarding the deaths, injured and diseased, homeless, and destruction of property will remain fluid.  As a result, the statistics, tentative as they are, will be outdated by the time this post is read.  What remains important, however, are the questions and lessons one might take from this disaster.

It is hard to imagine the level of devastation covering a third of the country.  In other words, an area the size of Britain covered by the flooding.  According to the most recent reports I have seen, the death toll has risen to 1,738.  According to Pakistan Disaster Authority Officials, at least 17 million people have been affected, with 600,000 to 800,00 displaced from their homes in Dadu in Pakistan's Sindh province by new flooding in just the last four days.  The areas of Mehr Tehsil, Kher pur Nathanshah and Jodi are under water.  As stated by the UN special envoy for Assistance to Pakistan, Jean-Maurice Ripert, "We still have millions of people out of their houses." and "we have hundreds of thousands of people that we have to feed, take care of on a daily basis."

And as CNN reported on Saturday, 4 September 2010, "But the nightmare isn't over for the survivors.  Water-borne illnesses from contaminated flood waters have erupted nationwide."  At least 1 million Pakistanis have crippling diarrhea or respiratory infections.  About 65,000 cases of malaria have been reported.  The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees' representative to Pakistan said that "There is a humanitarian tragedy with immediate threats of water-borne diseases and food shortages."  He further stated that: "I have worked in humanitarian situations globally, and worked in refugee camps in Africa during emergencies, but to be honest I had never seen a situation as devastating as I saw in Balochistan."  The United Nations warned that a crisis was building in the eastern province of Balochistan, where nearly 2 million people are affected.

The U.N. Financial Tracking Service has published the funding status of the latest appeals for humanitarian relief for Pakistan.  The statistics show the donor, the channel for funding, the description of donation, funding pledges and the uncommitted pledges. The table of commitments, contributions, and pledges is current as of 4 September 2010.  According to this table, a total of US $797,194,251 had been contributed to Pakistan flood relief, and a total of US $317,671,622 pledged but not committed.  These numbers represent contributions made by governments bilaterally to Pakistan as well as contributions made through NGOs.

While these figures might seem impressive for the uninitiated, when compared with the giving for the relief in Haiti following the earthquake in January 2010, the giving is not that impressive.  As stated by Jean-Maurice Ripert recently, the amount given by the international community to relief in Pakistan is "far from enough."

For example, at this point in addressing the emergency relief in Haiti resulting from the earthquake of 12 January 2010, $2.5 billion had been given, and $1.3 billion pledged.  Countries had provided large components of disaster relief teams, medical staff, and technicians for reconstruction.  Countries provided field hospitals, hospital ships, aircraft carriers, and transportation services.  The World Bank had canceled $36 million Haiti debt and had made $479 million in grants to support recovery and development.

In the Blog of News and Insight, The Rundown, the writer, George Griffin, wrote on 6 September 2010:

American individuals and corporations have given generously to the people of Pakistan suffering from the worst flooding catastrophe in the nation's history.  But that generosity still falls short of the sums Americans have donated to aid victims of other major crises.

The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University reported that in the first five weeks of the Pakistan flood crisis, individual and corporate giving to relief organizations operating in Pakistan was estimated at just over $25 million, whereas at this point, the giving to relief after the earthquake in Haiti was $900 million, and in the case of giving to relief for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. Gulf coast was approximately $2 billion.


This has been the subject of considerable analysis and discussion within the sector and those that watch the sector.

But, first, a little context.

The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University reported in late 2008 that nonprofit professionals reported the lowest overall level of confidence in the United States for fundraising, with the Philanthropic Giving Index (PGI) reporting a 21 percent decrease in the preceding six months.  Patrick Rooney, the interim executive director put it this way:

This is a hard year for fundraisers at many organizations across the nonprofit spectrum.  These results reflect that the U.S. economy is in a recession.  Our research for Giving USA Foundation shows that the total giving generally declines by about 2.7 percent annually during longer recessions.  While we do not yet know what will happen to total giving in 2008, the PGI is a strong indicator of the difficult challenges fundraisers are clearly concerned with as 2008 comes to a close.

Although this addresses the challenges in the United States, my guess is that since the recession and economic situation has been worldwide, the situation exists around the world.  Since the recession has continued through 2009 and into 2010, it would seem that these challenges have only gotten worse.  But, can that be the only explanation since the fundraising for emergency relief to the people of Haiti was significant by any standard, and certainly in comparison to the funding for the relief in Pakistan?  This report suggested that different types and sizes of organizations are affected in different ways by the economy with human services organizations, such as public benefit, environmental, animal rights, and international organizations reporting a tough fundraising climate, while those organizations working in health doing a little better.

According to the United Nations Financial Tracking Service table listing of all commitments/ contributions and pledges as of 4 September 2010, $797,194,251 have been contributed in actual payment of funds or transfer of gifts-in-kind from the donor to the recipient entity, which may be either the Pakistani government or an NGO.  The table also listed the pledges totaling $317,571,622 uncommitted pledges.

What is interesting from an international perspective is that, according to the Financial Tracking Service of the United Nations, giving to relief and emergency assistance in Pakistan from its Middle East and Central Asia neighbors was minimal.  And, the giving that there was, essentially reflected giving from government to government, government through its Red Cross or Red Crescent, to the Pakistani Red Cross, or government through UN agencies.  Moreover, most of the contributions were in the form of gifts-in-kind.

The worst areas have been totally dependent on outside help.  BBC News reported that in remote areas, roads have been cut off, and donkeys make eight-hour trips to reach people.  With the fresh water warnings and more rain predicted, thousands were struggling with shortage of food, clean water, shelter, medicine.  The International Red Cross was working with local partners to provide packages of aid, such as tents, blankets, stoves, cooking utensils, and the like to families in remote areas.

In one area, 80 percent of the homes were destroyed or badly damaged.  All the mud-brick houses were washed away.  People rely on open wells, which have become contaminated, so access to clean water was a problem.  Many people worked as day laborers, so they have lost both their homes and livelihoods, and must start over.  An area south of Punjab had essentially been turned into a large lake.  This was a desperately poor area where there had been significant agriculture.  Now with the crops destroyed or damaged, food for the villages in the area would be a major problem for the long term.  There were lots of snakes, so there was a major risk of snake bites, as well as water borne diseases, such as dysentery and cholera.

As monsoon rains continued unabated, the situation continued to rapidly deteriorate.  Millions of victims were left to fight for survival with little clean water, food, or shelter.  The demands for urgently needed aid put added pressure on the government and NGOs simply to save lives.  Food, water purification tablets, shelter, medicine, hygiene kits, and medical teams were transported by raft, boat, and donkey.

As pointed out in a 16 August 2010 article in SPIEGEL ONLINE,

When water and food are lacking or disease starts to spread, it is always the children who first feel the affects.  On Sunday, local news outlets reported that five children had died of starvation in the northwestern region of Pakistan.  Aid organizations fear that many more children could perish as a result of the flood catastrophe because of lack of clean drinking water, medicine, and vitamins.

Commenting on the paucity of giving to Pakistan flood relief estimates, SPIEGEL ONLINE article quotes Helga Kuhn, the UNICEF spokeswoman as saying, "the more people learn about the scope of the catastrophe in Pakistan and how many children have been affected, the more they will be willing to help."

In some circles and countries, there is a general sense that it is unethical to use children and pictures of children in dire straits as objects in fundraising appeals.  There may be several reasons for this, including the idea that in relief and development work, children are being used to psychologically manipulate people into to giving for purposes that are broader in a community than simply to address the needs of a particular child pictured in the solicitation for funds.

Yet, where children are the early and principal victims of natural disasters, such as the one in Pakistan, how is the world to understand the devastation that is occurring in that country, and its effect on the young in press reports or appeals for donations?  Is there any difference in this thinking if the appeal is made for emergency and urgent relief in the case of a natural disaster as opposed to simply raising funds for some development projects in a community?  In other words, is there a difference in the ethical considerations for fundraising if the relief and development organization is engaged in child sponsorship in its fundraising program, or is actually raising funds for emergency and urgent relief in a situation like the Haiti earthquake or the Pakistan flood?  Is the use of children in photographs in these cases part of the educational goals of the NGO unethical even if part of the reason for their use is to motivate giving?

Assuming there is an element of manipulation in attempts to motivate donors to give to NGOs providing emergency relief to the victims of the Pakistan floods, is there not always some efforts on the part of NGOs to incentivize giving to such causes, or indeed, to any cause?  Were not the telethons provided by television and movie celebrities to raise money for the Haiti earthquake relief also designed to promote giving on the part of the public?  Is there a fundamental difference from this perspective if the photos are of general devastation and hardship, but do not focus on children who are simply being used as props for the appeal?  While the practice of fundraising in the case of the Haiti earthquake with photographs and video clips of the damage, devastation, death, and hardship does not justify similar attempts to motivate generosity in the case of Pakistan, the question nevertheless continues to press us as to the fundamental basis for moral reasoning regarding the use of photographs, including those that focus on children in distress to play on the sympathies and emotions of the public so that people will give.

International relief efforts through NGOs have included the provision of undefined humanitarian assistance, emergency water and food assistance to families affected by the flooding, tarps, tents and other shelter supplies, buckets, generators,  hygiene and medical supplies and medical equipment, and water sanitation equipment.  Services included mobile medical clinics and medical services, logistical support, aviation support services, safety and security forces, protection activities, and construction services, for example.

Burkhard Wilke, the Director and CEO of Deutsches Zentralinstitut fur soziale Fragen DZI), and former Secretary General of ICFO sent a notice to all ICFO members with a DZI press release concerning donation campaigns in Germany for the victims of the flood catastrophe in Pakistan.  He compared the donation volume to that in the case of the relief for the Haiti earthquake of January 2010, and noted that the volume was significantly less than in the case of the donations for the Haiti relief.

Public television broadcasting stations ARD and ZDF, which had been known for hosting fundraising telethons for natural disasters in the past, have announced that they have no plans to host similar telethon fundraising drives at this time.  German charity organizations, Welthungerhilfe and UNICEF reported that people are hesitant to make donations.  German Agro Action (Welthungerhilfe) stated that "the people (in Pakistan) have the feeling that they have been abandoned."

The following links provide an example of the information provided by ICFO member, DZI.

See also:

This press release announced a preliminary figure on donations to the victims in Pakistan as surveyed by DZI.  The press release generally indicated the primary agencies in Germany that had been granted seals of approval for complying with DZI standards, that had provided relief assistance.  However, the importance in this announcement was primarily due to the fact that it signaled a declining flow of contributions and reduced media coverage.

ICFO members responded to Burkhard's message noting that the same general trends obtained in the ICFO respective countries.  While some of the explanations for this diminished response reflected the comments and analysis contained above, there was general agreement that the volume of donations and the attention in the public media was significantly less than had been the case in the fundraising campaigns in the the case of the Haiti earthquake.

Canada's John Pellowe of CCCC reported that questions about the reluctance of people to donate to relief efforts in Pakistan had been a major topic on talk radio programs where the consensus seemed to be that most people regarded Pakistan as no friend of Western nations because it is giving the Taliban what it needs to function, and therefore, indirectly contributing to the deaths of Canadian troops in Afghanistan.  Additionally, there was not a lot of sympathy at this time, and the question as to why wealthy Middle Eastern nations closely aligned with Pakistan were not providing support.

Adri Kemps of CBF in the Netherlands, also reported a drop in donations as compared with Haiti fundraising at this point of time in the Haiti crisis, and noted that the critical questions raised in the media related to the Taliban issue and the perceived ineffectiveness of the support.  Notwithstanding these questions and the apparent reluctance on the part of the donor public, the media outlets present the Pakistan flood as a major human disaster.  The largest Dutch aid organizations argue that human victims need the support now, and that the Dutch should give generously as these largest organizations have opened the well-known disaster assistance back account to jointly collect money for the flood relief.

Edith Archambault of Comite de la Charte in France reported like the others that the giving at this point in France was lower than at the comparable period in the case of the fundraising efforts for Haiti earthquake relief.  As she pointed out, Pakistan is politically ambiguous in comparison to Haiti, which is French speaking with many immigrants in France.  Moreover, August is a slow month in France, including in relief nonprofit organizations.

Switzerland had a national collection day for Pakistan in mid-August, organized by "Gluekskette" in which collections were pooled and distributed to Swiss charities operating in Pakistan.  As reported by the others, Martina Ziegerer reported that giving was down compared to the giving for the Haiti relief efforts.  Media attention was slow in the beginning, but as the media focused on the catastrophe and the human suffering, donation levels started to increase.  Although there was discussion about corruption, charities pointed out that their relief work was directly focused on those needing the aid, and not through the Pakistani authorities.

Again, with pictures such as these herein, and many more published around the world, the question is why.  In an article in SPIEGEL ONLINE, the authors pointed out that in Germany, the volume of private donations for flood victims in Pakistan "has been far lower than for other natural disasters in the recent past."

As a hotbed of Islamist extremist activity, the country has an image problem.  But politicians say the suffering people of Pakistan should not be blamed for the activities of the Taliban."

In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Ruprecht Polenz, a senior politician with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said that there had been two types of reactions to fundraising for the Pakistan flood disaster:  Some feared that their money would be used to help extremists.  Others, said that if Pakistan would spend less money on its efforts to arm itself with nuclear weapons, it would have enough money to manage this catastrophe.

However, Ruprecht Polenz also made the point that Pakistan had an "undeserved image problem," and that most of the millions of people affected by the flood have suffered under these extremists.  What that image was, and why it was "undeserved" was not clear.  Nevertheless, Pakistan has been accused of tolerating terrorists within its borders.  Moreover, there has been allegations by senior officials reported in Britain's Daily Telegraph, that there had been about Euro 367 million embezzled five years ago during the earthquake in northwester Pakistan.

But the issue at hand in Pakistan right now is not one of corrupt leadership, "this is about human lives," said Elke Hoff, a member of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party [in Germany] the junior coalition partner in Merkel's government.  The politician implored Germans to "make donations to Pakistan."  She said destitution and hardship should not be an occasion for politicking.  "The Pakistani people can't help it that extremists are attempting to destabilize the government's situation," she said.  "A high willingness to donate could also help to improve the image of the West amont the Pakistani people," Hoff told SPIEGEL ONLINE.  She described the decision by ARD and ZDF not to hold telethons as highly regrettable.

This concern on the part of the public, however, is not entirely without merit.  In report on 6 September 2010, as the floods in Pakistan began to recede, there were reported suspicions and rumors in Pakistan that powerful officials and landowners used their influence to divert waters away from their properties, and thereby inundated the villages and fields of millions of poor Pakistanis.  These suspicions and rumors may be exaggerated and are difficult to verify.  Nevertheless, they have fueled outrage by the victims of the floods toward the government.  This on top of the existing anger at the government for its failure to provide enough food, clean water, and shelter.

This outrage has been especially pronounced in northern Sindh where hundreds of thousands of people watch the floods swamp their fields and villages, destroying homes, while the lands of the powerful on the opposite side of the Indus remained dry.

Nevertheless, one of the risks of this distrust of the government and anger toward the government is that Islamist militants could seize on this growing anger to increase support for their war against the state.  This simply exacerbates the deep distrust many Pakistanis already harbored against their government and the wealthy landowners.

While militants in Pakistan have limited success in providing aid to refugees, the recent flood disaster and the anger and mistrust of the government have given militant groups and affiliates are offering social service and aid in the affected areas some credibility.  But, this has also generated concern that this aid could translate into long-term support for their organizations.  This has fueled fear among policymakers in Washington and other Western capitals that these terrorist-related militant organizations might seize Pakistan's tribal areas setting back the course of counter-terrorism efforts.

Reuters news service reported in late August 2010 that the United States has seen evidence that militants and affiliated charities in Pakistan have been deepening their involvement in flood relief in an effort to win popular support.  The U.S. State Department has issued warnings that insurgents may be targeting foreign aid workers responding to the crisis and Pakistan's inability to respond because it has been overwhelmed by the disaster.  This, even as the United States and it international allies rush to deliver additional aid.  One senior government official said that the militants were even dispensing money for victims of the flood.  Some of these charity groups have been linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba and its humanitarian arm, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which were blacklisted by the United Nations and were blamed for the 2008 attack on Mumbai, the Indian commercial capital that resulted in the deaths of 166 people.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), under the name of Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation Pakistan, has set up approximately 29 relief camps in a number of flooded areas.  According to one report by the Times of India, Jud had set up camps in its own name until police started demanding extortion money.  JuD claims to have provided food to 50,000 flood survivors in all four provinces every day and was in the process of reaching out to 100,000 survivors.  Additionally, it claimed to be distributing packet of food, hygiene items, and other items to 8,000 families.

During a recent interview on the PBS Newshour television program, a reporter from GlobalPost stated that humanitarian efforts are in full swing in areas hit by the worst flooding.  However, most of these humanitarian efforts are not from international aid groups or the Pakistani government, but are from a hard-line Islamic charity, Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation Pakistan, or JuD.  Medical teams were getting ready.  "Through their robust relief efforts, Falah has been able to buy loyalty."   According to this reporter,

Meanwhile, some three million flood victims have yet to receive aid, and international donor funds have nearly come to a standstill, according to the United Nations.  To address this crisis, Pakistan's prime minister announced that he will hold an international conference shortly.  It's something that might help the government itself fill the gap, instead of terrorist-linked charity groups.

There is one other problem that has surfaced recently that also might have some impact on the giving to charitable organizations in the donor nations for relief in Pakistan.  There was a recent, 5 September 2010, report in a magazine in the United States that reported:

Government agencies and Muslim relief organizations in Pakistan have been denying aid to thousands of Christians left homeless by the recent monsoon floods, say Christian sources in the overwhelming Muslim nation.
Aid agencies have been delivering food, clothing, building supplies and hygiene kits in an effort to prevent outbreaks of water-borne disease as the flood waters begin to recede.
But the Pakistan Christian Congress says the afflicted Punjab region is a "hotbed" of Islamic extremist organizations that view Christians as infidels, and local officials who fear the extremists have been barring Christians from tent camps set up for flood victims.

The Anglican Bishop in Peshawar, the president of Open Doors USA, and the president of Pakistan Christian Congress have addressed this problem and as the Lahore-based Daily Times said in a recent editorial:

Reports about systematic discrimination in aid distribution are utterly disgraceful.  If we want to progress as a nation, we need to close the doors on our prejudices.  For far too long we have let religious bigots call the shots.

The problem is that the only place where aid for many is available is the local mosque.  Under these circumstances, Christians, which comprise approximately two percent of Pakistan's 175 million people and are accused of blasphemy, are in extremely vulnerable situations.  While some are denied assistance, others are required to vacate the region or convert to Islam.

There is, it seems to me, one other factor that makes the comparison of funds raised for Pakistan relief or aid and that raised for relief and assistance for Haiti at the beginning of this year difficult.  Whereas, Haiti experienced a sudden disaster and devastation brought about by the earthquake, the flooding in Pakistan was a much more gradually occurring disaster.  Whereas one, because of the sudden event, attracted the media attention and presented the need in much more stark terms, the other simply occurred over time and the severity of the catastrophe grew on us as the media began to direct their attention on the flooding.

For reasons that might vary according to one's worldview, we can all agree that there is some level of moral obligation to provide assistance in the case of natural disasters, such as is being experienced in Pakistan.  What the basis, if any, of that moral obligation is, may not be clear now, but the question before us is how we are to give with the confidence that our giving will reach those in need.  While ICFO may not have all the answers, its members can provide some basis for understanding how charity monitoring may be serving as a "bridge of trust" between the donor and the charitable organization providing assistance in Pakistan, and indeed, to the victims and beneficiaries of that generosity.  Such is the subject of another post.