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Asia-pacific

Donor exhaustion worries aid organisations after devastating floods

Text by Perrine MOUTERDE

Latest update : 2010-08-10

While almost 14 million people in Pakistan have been made homeless by flooding that has stricken the country over the last two weeks, the head of NGO Action Against Hunger worries that aid donations will be totally inadequate.

 According to the United Nations, devastating floods in Pakistan are a humanitarian disaster that eclipses the 2004 Tsunami and the Haiti earthquake put together, in terms of the number of people made homeless.

Although the number of deaths is much smaller – 1,600 at the latest count (August 10), nearly 14 million people have been made homeless, compared with 200,000 in the Asian tsunami and three million in Haiti.
 
Daniel Holmberg, head of the Pakistan mission for NGO Action Against Hunger (ACF), doubts that the international reaction will be in anywhere near what is needed on the ground as donors are likely to get tired of passing from one natural disaster to another.
 
F24: What is the situation right now?
 
Daniel Holmberg:  It is still very difficult to reach the people affected in the north-west of the country, particularly in the Swat Valley. The flooding was enormous and hit a population that had survived last year’s conflict [between the Pakistani Army and the Pakistani Taliban insurgents].
 
Most of these people have lost everything and the situation is much worse than it was after the 2005 earthquake [in Kashmir, 80,000 killed and three million homeless according to the Pakistani authorities].
 
I think we are at the peak of the catastrophe. Some NGOs yesterday were successful in getting through some aid. Until now only military helicopters have been able to reach the more remote areas. Aid organisations have been using any means possible to get through to these areas – by taxi, by mule, on foot…
 
It is still raining, notably in Sindh area in the south, but also in the north-west of the country.
 
F24: What is your organisation going to able to do to get food through to the people who have been made homeless?
 
DH: ACF is about to launch its project in the Dir district in the north-west and we will be implementing projects in two more districts in the area – Charsadda and Nowshehra – to bring aid to some 75,000 people. The priority right now is to slow the spread of diseases such as cholera. We will be distributing fresh water and sanitary facilities.
 
Beyond that we will be putting livelihood projects in place: the population in these areas are already on a back step because of last year’s conflict and many of them have lost 100% of their goods and sources of revenue. We will launch cash for work programmes to help these people survive.
 
Of course there is a huge need for food, but other NGOs such as the World Food Organisation are going to respond to this need. The people living in the north-west of the country are a highly resilient population. There are used to living through difficult times.
 
F24: How soon will you be able to start?
 
DH: We will be operational very soon and we are in the process of recruiting people to help us. Unlike in many African countries where we operate, there are many people in Pakistan who are highly qualified in healthcare provision. There won’t be a problem boosting the number of people on our team. There are currently 40 of us.
 
F24: Do you worry that Pakistan’s image in the media will have a negative impact on fundraising?
 
DHYes, all the NGOs are certainly concerned. So far, the funds that have been given by the international community are nowhere near enough to meet the needs here in Pakistan. We are worried that donors will be exhausted of passing from one catastrophe to another.
 
Certain disasters such as the Haiti earthquake captured world attention. It is difficult to gauge the media coverage of the flooding, and I hope that Pakistan’s global image right now will not prejudice its people’s desperate needs.
The basic requirements of those people made homeless should be taken care of in the coming months.
 
But the challenge will be in the long term. Donors need to commit to the long term.
 
Again, the impact on these floods is much worse than the 2005 earthquake. These people have lost their farms, their crops and all their irrigation systems. It will take them years to recover.

Date created : 2010-08-10

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