The worst flood in Pakistan’s history has received a tepid response from the international community.

“As of August 9, 2010, according to the UN’s financial tracking system, less than $45 million has been committed, plus $91million pledged, which breaks down to $3.20 committed per flood affected person,” said British NGO Oxfam in a press release.

The scale of aid and relief committed by international donors to Pakistan, is at least four times less than that committed after the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan – the number of people affected by the floods is close to 14 million whereas the earthquake affected about 3.2 million.

In terms of area, the October 2005 earthquake affected about 30,000 square km of land. The floods, have so far, wrecked havoc on 132,421 square km, destroying over 700, 000 hectares of standing crops.

The international community’s poor response to the massive tragedy in Pakistan is being attributed to the lack of trust in the government’s ability to disburse cash.

If one compares the $3.29 (a mere Rs. 275) committed by the international community so far for each flood affected person, the response, according to Oxfam, pales in comparison with the amounts committed to other crises.

“Within the first 10 days of the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, which left some 3.5 million people homeless, the international community had committed $247 million and pledged another $45 million. When calculated, this works out to $70 committed per person, 10 days into the crisis,” stated Oxfam, urging more international assistance for the flood victims.

Similarly, in the first 10 days after Cyclone Nargis, which affected 2.4 million when it struck off the coast of Myanmar, almost $110 million was committed (and $109 million pledged) in the first 10 days. This works out at $46 committed per person. Likewise, some $742 million were committed to Haiti 10 days after the quake and $920 million pledged. Some 1.5 million people were directly affected by the quake, which when calculated, amounts to $495 per person in funds committed during the first 10 days.

The problem is three-fold," says Farrukh Saleem, an economic and political analyst. "First being trust deficit. When Pakistani citizens don’t trust their own government with their money, how can you expect international governments to give us money? No government wants to give cash to Pakistan, no matter what the purpose. Secondly, the US, which has traditionally been our biggest aid donor, is facing severe recession due to economic crisis and war expenditures, while Europe is having its own financial difficulties. So expecting something from the empty coffers of US and Europe at this time is asking for too much.”

“I agree that the aid pledged by international community is not enough. But I don’t agree that there is any trust deficit between the people and our government,” argued Sumsam Bokhari, state minister for information and broadcasting. “People have trust in us that’s why they vote for us. Trust deficit is not an issue.”

The floods have also exposed the capacity of national and international organisations to reach out to the people whose livelihoods have been destroyed.

“Money is not going to come to us. We’ll have to do something on our own,” said Saleem on DawnNews programme, "Reporter."

“Other countries have learnt from their experiences in managing disasters. Disaster management is a well-established science now. Preparations for managing disasters should be done the year round,” said Saleem. “Unfortunately, we haven’t learnt much. We only start responding to a disaster once it has struck.”

This also brings into question the role of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) which was established a few years ago. Ever since its establishment, people have been questioning its ability to manage disasters and provide people with rescue and relief. A case in point being the recently reported incident where a fake medical camp was set up in Mianwali by the NDMA just for a visit by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

In the absence of sufficient international aid and government efforts to provide relief and rescue, there have been fears of extremist elements taking advantage of the situation. One can only hope that doesn’t prove to be the situation.

Arshad Sharif is the Islamabad Bureau Chief of DawnNews. He tweets at http://twitter.com/dawntvreporter and can be found on Facebook.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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