Pakistan under water, Haiti under spotlight

In January 2010, the international response to a devastating earthquake in Haiti sent a feeling of unity and pride throughout the world. In a place where negativity is a norm, where university students believe world peace is an idealist’s dream, the international community can and will rise to the challenge of a natural disaster of this caliber. A sense of humanity not only still existed, but was thriving.

Compared to the valiant efforts the world showcased in response to the earthquake in Haiti, the international response to Pakistan since it was first hit by the flood in July this year is a tragedy in itself. The UN has requested for US$459 million of vital aid, but only 60 per cent of that has been delivered. The UN has totalled a donation of US$27 million from the UN’s central emergency response fund, and is stressing the importance for governments to increase their efforts.

The flood, which began in July, has crushed thousands of villages and completely washed away countless roads, buildings and crops, affecting 20 million people and leaving around six million homeless. Citizens are literally stranded on miniature islands surrounded by waters that threaten cholera, diarrhea and other sickness that further imperil the millions of people who immediately lost their homes.

According to an interview with House Leader John Baird, comparing the speed of both responses — that of Haiti in January and Pakistan in July — is hard to measure as the two disasters occurred in different ways. “In the case of Haiti [ . . . ] you had upwards of 200,000, a quarter of a million people, killed in less than a minute some three hours from Canada. Obviously the flooding has been incredibly different. It’s gotten progressively worse.”

Regardless, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is urging the world to step up their fundraising tactics. According to BBC news, Ban Ki-moon described the situation in Pakistan as “heart-wrenching” after his visit to see the devastating effects the flood has had on Pakistan. According to this same article, over 1,500 have lost their lives. Ban Ki-Moon — having witnessed the tsunami in 2004, Cyclone Nargis in Burma in 2008, the Haiti earthquake in January 2010, the Chilean earthquake in February 2010 and the earthquake in Qinghai province, China in April 2010 — stated that he had never seen so much destruction as he did in his recent visit to Pakistan. “In the past I have seen scenes of natural disaster around the world,” he said, “but nothing like this. The scale of this disaster is so large. So many people in so many places in so much need.” With the threats of epidemics, sickness, disease and injury in areas affected by the flood, the death toll is predicted to skyrocket.

Back in January, the government matched “tens of millions of dollars that Canadians gave in private donations for the recovery in Haiti.” The Canadian government is now using a similar strategy to increase the sluggish response from Canadians, and has promised to “go dollar for dollar on qualifying donations made between Aug. 2 and Sept. 12,” matching private donations in order to urge Canadians to respond to the dire need for support.

What you donate to Pakistan, just as what you would donate to Haiti, is a donation to humanity. “[ . . . ] I call upon the world to support us,” President Zardari said, “and to listen to the voice of the United Nations to support Pakistan.”

Esma Mneima is a second year student reminding others to constantly sympathize and support those in need, even when it isn’t popular culture.