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Why such a slow response to Pakistan's floods?

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Why such a slow response to Pakistan's floods?


Of the six million Pakistanis desperate for food and clean water, the UN says just 500,000 have received help. That is despite warnings of a ‘second wave of deaths’ caused by disease and food shortages unless the urgent needs of sick, hungry survivors are met.

Visiting the country at the weekend, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated a UN appeal for funds. But whether it is down to the economic crisis, donor fatigue or Pakistan’s image internationally, the response has been relatively slow.

Only around 32 percent of the 459 million dollar sum requested by the United Nations for initial relief has so far arrived. By comparison, 90 percent of the UN’s target for earthquake-hit Haiti was pledged in less than a month.

The UN has obtained just half the aid funds it wanted, this year, in general, with Yemen, Uganda, the Central African Republic and Guatemala hit particularly hard.

One explanation for the shortfall could be the massive mobilisation after Haiti’s devastating earthquake in January. International solidarity was huge with donors digging deep. At a time of economic crisis, funds may now be lacking.

Fears over corruption could also be holding donors back. Claims in the UK press that 360 million euros in foreign aid for Pakistan’s 2005 earthquake was diverted by its government will do little to inspire confidence.

Nor did President Zardari’s decision to continue his trip to Europe when the current disaster struck. As for transparency, the government has promised that a special department will be created by the Finance Ministry to manage crisis funds.

Pakistan’s most powerful institution, the military, has been key to relief efforts. Its presence on the front line has triggered speculation that a coup could follow. But the army’s priority remains fighting Taliban insurgents and an uprising is thought unlikely.

Victims are also turning to Islamic charities, some of them linked to militant groups. Pakistan and the West are concerned that Islamists will fill the aid vacuum, possibly gaining supporters at the expense of the state. The fear is that the end result could be instability which could engulf the entire region.

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