Population Services International

U.N. Sounds Alarm on Aid for Pakistan

Aid organizations and the United Nations itself expressed alarm on Tuesday that the plight of millions of Pakistanis flooded from their land has yet to strike a sufficiently sympathetic nerve among donors — neither governments nor the general public — with aid trickling in far more slowly than needed.

They cited a variety of factors for the sluggish reaction, starting with minimal media coverage globally and a relatively low death toll. Other elements, they said, included the preoccupation with economic problems; donor fatigue with natural disasters and the August vacation season when many people pay less attention to the news. Finally, Pakistan itself suffers from an image problem as a hotbed of Taliban activity and the source of renegade nuclear sales, which can give donors pause.

“What is clear is that we need a lot more and we need it quickly,” said John Holmes, the humanitarian coordinator for the United Nations. The international outpouring after recent disasters like Haiti or the Asian tsunami in 2004 was driven partly by the huge, sudden loss of life and the striking images of rescue efforts, he said.

A slow-moving flood with a death toll of about 1,500 people fails to provoke a similar reaction. “An earthquake is a much more dramatic, emotional, telegenic event because it happens so quickly,” Mr. Holmes said.

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