New York Times Examines Aid Effort Challenges For Slow-Moving Disasters With A Focus On Pakistan

The New York Times examines the international aid response to the recent floods in Pakistan and takes a closer look at aid challenges that arise for what the article calls “slow-moving disasters.”

“In all, $3.4 billion has been collected for the victims of the Haiti earthquake as of October, with more than $1.1 billion coming from private donations, according to figures compiled by the United Nations. Close to $1.7 billion has been pledged for Pakistan, but less than $300 million came from private donors. The United States government pledged almost one-third of the total,” the newspaper writes. “Humanitarians have long struggled with this paradox. The number of dead, along with the swiftness and drama of their demise, trumps almost any amount of agony among those who survive a disaster, particularly a creeping one,” according to the article.

“The fact that individual donors have seemingly irrational reasons for giving to one disaster and not another demonstrates how counterproductive the current methods of raising money for humanitarian relief are,” the New York Times writes. Peter Walker, a humanitarian aid expert at Tufts University, said people often think that countries need a quick burst of funds to recover and get back to normal, which might be true for wealthier nations. “But in poorer countries like Haiti and Pakistan, a major disaster fundamentally changes the equation, and their needs are both immediate and long term,” the newspaper writes.

The article notes that other long-term crisis situations, like Darfur, “have attracted widespread news coverage and large-scale humanitarian aid.” According to the newspaper, “two-thirds of humanitarian spending goes to ‘crises’ that have been going on for more than five years, Mr. Walker said, places like Sudan, Congo and Afghanistan, and now Haiti and Pakistan.” The piece also looks at how news media coverage factors into the aid response.

“Doctors Without Borders examined the flood of new donors after the Indian Ocean tsunami and compared them with the new donors who gave to Haiti. Haiti donors were more likely to give a second gift, they found. People with a longer history of giving to the organization, however, were more likely to have given to Pakistan. … Over all, officials at Doctors Without Borders said, the response to the Pakistan floods has been generous.” The article includes comments from Michael Glantz, a political scientist, Randy Strash, with World Vision, Farooq Tariq, a human rights activist, and Jennifer Tierney, with Doctors Without Borders (Polgreen, 11/10).

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