Pakistan has been ravaged by catastrophic floods over the past few weeks. Thousands of homes and schools have been destroyed and millions left homeless. The UN estimates that so far at least 2000 people have died and about 20 million people have been effected by the floods. The number of affectees in this disaster is greater than the combined total of the 2004 Tsunami, 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haitian earthquake.

The aid response from the government has been more sluggish than usual. What is more alarming, however, is the slow response from the international community. The UN launched an initial appeal of $469 million to help the flood victims; less than half the money Canada spent on the G20 summit. Considering the scale of the disaster and the number of those effected, this isn’t an impossible amount to raise. However, governments have so far only donated 36% of this amount. A quarter of this aid was provided alone by the UK who described the response from the remaining international community as ‘pitiful’ and ‘lamentable’. UN’s secretary general Ban Ki-moon surveyed the area and described the catastrophe as the worst disaster he had seen. Millions have those effected so far haven’t received any aid at all.

The apathy shown by the international community saddens me, but intrigues me as well. Why was is it that people have reacted in a such a fashion? Aid agencies have expressed difficulty in conveying the scale of disaster to people. Perhaps its due to the fact that the disaster was not like an an earthquake or tsunami that happens over night and kills thousands of people. The floods started with heavy rains and gradually reached to levels where they wiped out entire villages. Perhaps it is due to the lack of casualties that people aren’t sympathizing with the victims. While the number of people that have died is significantly lower than other major disasters, the number of those effected is far higher. Hundreds of thousands have been left homeless and this should logically garner a larger response as the victims are still alive and are in dire need of help.

Either ways, it shouldn’t matter how many people died and how many are homeless compared to other disasters. The bottom line is that these are people in extreme need and the response from the international community needs to be strong, swift and generous; no one should be sitting at home weighing out whether its worth while to donate. So if you’re reading this and haven’t donated yet, please go ahead and donate whatever you can to the relief effort; its the month of Ramadan so there couldn’t be a better time to donate. I’ve attached links to charities that I know are active in the region.

Islamic Relief Canada
Canadian Red Cross
Pakistan Red Crescent

ICNA Relief Canada
The Humanitarian Coalition