“Pakistan is in the midst of a catastrophic natural disaster that has precipitated a humanitarian crisis of major proportions,” a new report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service observes. The widespread flooding that has displaced millions of Pakistanis also represents a political crisis that “may undermine the already waning legitimacy of the civilian government” and a security crisis that has “already diverted Pakistani resources and focus away from its struggle with Islamic militants.”
Yet “despite the unprecedented scale of the flood disaster in Pakistan and more than 20 million people affected, aid donations from around the world have been much slower to materialize than other natural disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti,” the CRS said.
Possible reasons for the comparatively limited response include the gradual nature of the flooding, the paucity of press coverage, the limited death toll, Pakistan’s image problem among potential donors, the worldwide recession, and the fact that “the floods occurred in summer when many in western nations are on vacation.”
Under the best of circumstances, however, “International assistance after a catastrophe rarely, if ever, meets the need,” the CRS said. Meanwhile, the United States government already leads international efforts in emergency relief to Pakistan with total FY2010 aid estimated at nearly $350 million.
The CRS report provides a detailed survey of what is known of the humanitarian, economic and political implications of the flood and the international response to date.
“The long-term effects of the flooding are likely to present daunting challenges to the country. The long-term effects are likely to manifest themselves in two ways that have significance to the United States and Congress. One aspect is the humanitarian toll that is likely to emerge from displaced people, disease, food security, and an economic decline. Another aspect is the strategic concerns that could result from a weakened government, and a dissatisfied and disenfranchised population.”
See “Flooding in Pakistan: Overview and Issues for Congress,” September 21, 2010.
Many charities and relief organizations offer opportunities to contribute to flood relief in Pakistan, including the American Jewish World Service, which highlights the Pakistan crisis on its home page.
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