Pakistan Floods: Where is Philanthropy’s Response?

4864541304_1823eb85b1 Within six months of the Haiti earthquake, private donors gave more than US$1.3 billion. Appeals to give were seen in traditional and social media. Hollywood stars like Oprah and Lady Gaga personally gave and asked for public support. Philanthropy advisors and bloggers provided advice on how to give during a disaster and some even coordinated on the ground conference call updates. But the response to the recent Pakistan flooding situation is starkingly different. No appeals from Hollywood stars, no mass media coverage, very few bloggers are covering the event and so far, no sources have provided a tally of how much donors have given or how much organizations have received. Why? And, where is philanthropy’s response?

Immediate catastrophes and scale of impact

The Haiti earthquake killed an estimated 230,000 people. The Kashmir earthquake killed over 80,000 people. As of today, officials are reporting a death toll of 1,500 and at least 14 million people have been made homeless. With such a small number of deaths, it is hard to grab the attention of the media and donors. Experts say that the impact of floods are perceived as less catastrophic when compared to earthquakes and tsunamis. Earthquakes and tsunamis have high numbers of immediate deaths while the impact of floods are more ongoing and long-term.

Floods require the movement of people away from the floods and onto higher ground. Farmland and crops are destroyed. Homes are inhabitable. Floods also create water-borne diseases that eventually cause medical issues. The impact of loss from floods are slowly uncovered as the water recedes and the damages continue to roll in. By then, the media has moved on to other news-worthy issues and the donor’s attention is distracted by another cause.

Donor fatigue and tough economic times 

Reports have cited donor fatigue and tough economic times for the decrease in donations to Pakistan’s floods victims. While western countries are facing tough economic times now, they were also facing similar conditions in January during Haiti’s earthquake. Yet, US$1.3 billion was raised from private sources in the U.S.

It seems to me that timing may be one factor when it comes to how much and if individuals, corporations and foundations will respond to a disaster. The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and the early January earthquake occurred near the holidays and the new year, when people were in a more charitable mood. Further, the timing of charitable tax deductibility may also play a role. The U.S. government approved a new tax relief law allowing people who contributed in 2010 to charities providing earthquake relief in Haiti to take a tax deduction for the contribution on their 2009 tax return instead of their 2010 return. Donors received an immediate tax benefit rather than having to wait until next year.

Pakistan’s political and economic realities 

Political instability, Islamist insurgency and corruption are also causing some prospective donors to be weary about the use of their charitable contributions. Pakistan was ranked number 42 in Transparency International’s 2009 Corruption Perception Index (it was number 47 the previous year). Donors are worried that their aid will be misdirected, i.e., used for terrorist activities or for personal gains.

The world watches how leaders of the government respond to the disaster. This is a key factor in building trust with individual donors and the philanthropic community. It provides reassurance to the public that the government is taking steps to be transparent and is willing to work with international relief organizations. In this case, President Zardari was in Europe and and traveling to his Normandy chateau instead of returning home to oversee disaster relief efforts. The head of the civilian government, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Giliani, confessed publicly that the government was overwhelmed by the disaster. It appears only then, that the military was responding adequately to relief efforts (and people remember these things when it comes to voting and choosing the government they want).

Organizations working in Pakistan

USA Today has posted a list of many, well-known international groups asking for donations. Donations have a tendency to flow to groups that are able to capture the public’s attention and/or have access to sophisticated media outreach mechanisms. Therefore, I thought I would point out other groups doing work in Pakistan that are also raising funds for disaster relief and recovery. Many of these groups are also working with local groups in providing aid to victims.

BRAC Pakistan has been operating in Pakistan since 2007 providing microfinance to 106,000 people. They have temporarily halted its micro-finance and health operations work in the area and is focusing on providing emergency relief. BRAC Pakistan is providing food packets and to combat the threat of diarrheal disease breaking out, they are distributing oral rehydration solution sachets.

The Citizens Foundation was set up in 1995 and is now one of Pakistan’s leading organizations in the field of formal education. It has 660 school units in hundreds of rural areas and urban slums located in 68 towns and cities. TCF is providing food packages to flood affected victims and have set a target to provide 20 million meals to people in 30 days. Each ration bag will feed a family for a month.

Kashf Foundation is one of the largest micro-finance organizations in Pakistan that is focused on women in low income communities. Kashf has started relief drive and plans to distribute to 10,000 households in the affected area. After relief efforts, Kashf will be involved with rebuilding efforts, especially as it relates to access to financial services.

Rural Support Programmes Network is the largest non-government network of rural development programs in Pakistan. RSP works in 105 districts of the country’s 138 districts and their partners have worked in disaster relief efforts in the past. RSPN is currently collecting cash and in-kind donations (sites are in Pakistan).

(UPDATE on Aug 19, 2010 – Give2Asia has also set up a Pakistan Relief Fund and has identified three, local organizations working inside Pakistan.)

Photo courtesy of Digital-Globe Imagery, Flickr, Creative Commons

4 responses to “Pakistan Floods: Where is Philanthropy’s Response?”

  1. Craig Appel says:

    thanks for posting. i have been thinking about this myself, and you raise good points,especially interesting is the psychology of floods vs. other natural disasters, which i think is particularly true from the tsunami.
    In terms of the public and celebrity response in the US, my 2 cents is that there is also much less personal connection to Pakistan among most Americans. Haiti is in our backyard, and haitian and other Caribbean immigrants are very integrated in the US society particularly in Florida and big cities on the East Coast. Pakistani communities are more spread out, and i would argue, not as deeply integrated. Also, many celebs and other Americans have never visited (or considered visiting) Pakistan, while many at least know people who have been to Thailand, Indonesia and South India. The beaches are nicer there 😉

  2. Dien Yuen says:

    Hello Craig,
    Yes, very true regarding the connection to and understanding of Pakistan. Several of the folks I have spoken to were having issues placing where Pakistan was. Pakistan has no natural resources so governments and lobbying groups have less interest in it. The economic environment is difficult for manufacturing and businesses to penetrate in so few corporations are interested in Pakistan. Furthermore, the immense corporate response in the US to the Sichuan earthquake was driven by employees working for multi-national corporations inside China. This is not the case for Pakistan. Finally, the Pakistani diaspora philanthropy collaborations are relatively new. The American Pakistan Foundation only started operations this year.

  3. huzaifa shah says:

    i m working from the first day for flood desaster People as personaly as i can do from My personal resourses as far as i can do i did
    i held da camp and collect lot of Comudites also food And medicine 2 but my worth is limited and the problem is Countless……….I many Renowed NGOs and goverment and other Politicals wings who r collecting miilions aids helding camp and Collect LOT Of Food But Why De Are Waiting even dre camps r FULL but Not sending yet I went Dre and Ask Dem Personaly U collect Lot of thing so Plz send it rite Now The r deing by food n water n medicnce every Second is Important as u colect as it it u should send But de replyd me de send By thre Own Way i don think so de are sincerly working if some one sincer so why he is waiting n stock lot of foods,As in our hadith do Naiky As Like If u do By ur One hand so Other Hand Don Knw Other wise it will no mean But de want to Pubilicity n flash ther own Benefits Reality is dat de r Not reaching dre …..every Men Is Curupt and making name or money No body Is Slefless for the helping dats Y i decided to Full Fil My Personal Resposibilty as nation As a Human As a Muslim being …..i m requesting people who rilly want to help with any Tag Only the Purpose of NAIKY. and want to Make Happy Our GOD. so Plz b With me directly quickly send to the Victims Be sincer with ur deed ALLAH seeing us Wht ever we Do so Plz Belive On Our Death , Dis time can Also Come On us So Plz Donate N Save here after
    this is holy month so plz send ur zakat and fitra in save hand ……
    email me if any one want sincerly help for flood desaster People…
    syed huzaifa shah

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