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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pakistani Flood Relief

Yesterday, I was reading one of my favorite blogs Racailicious - which focuses on the intersection of race and pop culture. I always find it informative and helps me to look at issues from a different context. If you haven't read it, its a great blog to talk about how race interacts with our culture, I highly recommend it. From there I was directed to some information about the Pakistani Flood Relief effort and was underwhelmed by the US response. First I want to really reinforce the scope of the flooding; here is a link to a map (from the BBC) with a visual overlay of the flooding on top of the US, so you can see the size of the affected area. I think it helps to have that kind of a visual to really understand the extent of the disaster.

Racialicious had a link to an article from the Atlantic - 4 Reason Why American's Aren't Giving for Pakistani Flood Relief by Max Fisher. This article is discussing the dismal response for this natural emergency, in comparison to other's such as the Haiti earthquake. "The figures for the Haiti earthquake, tsunami, and Kashmir earthquake were $1087.33, $1249.80, and $388.33 respectively. For the Pakistan floods, the world has given only $16.36 per victim. These shortfalls have led many to ask a macabre question. Why did the world, particularly U.S. individual donors, give so much for Haiti but show so little concern for Pakistan?" Here's an article in WIRED discussing the difference in response from the US compared to the Haiti earthquake, and the differences are startling." According to the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, a month after the flooding started, the United States has provided an aggregated $200 million for Pakistan. That’s less than half of what it gave Haiti’s much, much smaller population."

Before I do that, I think its important to address the issues brought up by this article, on why many in the US do not seem to be as generous for the Pakistani, as for Haiti. Fisher has four main reasons he believes to be behind this. The first is that Pakistan lacks the network of western charities which Haiti has. In Haiti there is a large presence of Western, particularly Christian, humanitarian organizations; and these organizations have a large membership to mobilize in the event of a catastrophe like the Haiti earthquake. Also, Pakistan does not have a reputation for being a friend to the US, in fact it is seen as potentially collaborating with Taliban militants. However, as Fisher points out, if countries help those affected by the flooding, the US humanitarian response could bring goodwill and help alleviate extremism in that country. Doing good things for our fellow man when they need it, defines our morality - and as a country our aid would be a goodwill gesture that could improve US relations in Pakistan. Another factor, is the fact that Islam is not highly regarded and Islamaphobia is rampant in the US currently. Additionally, it is hard for the media to report on flooding in a way that shows the true scope of the damage caused; "the floods as a "slow motion" disaster that cannot be effectively conveyed in a single photograph or piece of video." These things together according to Fisher are the reasons why the US has not been as forthcoming with donations as it was for the Haiti earthquake.

I think in this current day and age, we should all work together to end racism and intolerance in our world. I feel that the lack of response to the Pakistani plight, for many, is influenced by these beliefs in our society. No matter what society you come from, we have all been socialized into intolerance or oppression of people or groups. So as I personally strive against the racism that US society has created as the norm, I think it is important to support groups which are being ignored because of societies intolerance.

And since I focused on Haiti Recovery, I thought it was important to also focus on other natural disasters, especially because the organizations on the ground in Pakistan need money now, in order to help those affected by the flooding. And because I did not blog last week and I am unhappy with the current response, I will be donating to 5 charities today.

They are: Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee, Merlin USA, Oxfam America, and CARE.  (I know some of them are repeats, but they are good groups and they are doing great work in Pakistan)

Please read and share wiht all that you think might be interested. Thanks. :-)

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