Haiti vs. Pakistan: 10 to 1, Haiti Wins in the First Round of Humanitarian Aid
In Haiti, there are a little over one million victims, and ten times as many in Pakistan. Yet the flow of aid going to the latter is NOT ten times as much. On the contrary. It is ONE TENTH!
Yes, you read that right: the score is 10 to 1.
Why? Has the world a special love for Haiti and a special hatred for Pakistan? Not at all. It's all a matter of politics. Pakistan has suffered from an explosive mix of distrust, corruption, ignorance and indifference.
Let me count the ways.
First, Pakistan is just not as good a story as Haiti. It's in the wrong part of the world, far away in Asia rather than on the back door of the United States and Canada. The religion is different (Moslem, not Christian). The language is incomprehensible (Haiti's form of French is a little bizarre but it has charm). I hear you: you're going to say that the Tsunami also hit Asia, with lots of Moslems and people who spoke incomprehensible languages. True enough. But at the time, there was no similar and previous disasters elsewhere. The Tsunami catastrophy stood on its own.
Second: Pakistan was hit after Haiti. They were some six months apart and by the time floods devastated Pakistan, the international community was suffering from aid fatigue. That's an ugly disease, but understandable. Donors, both public and private, had just emptied their pockets and now they had to reach down for the dough again. Too much!
Third point: donating is particularly difficult in these times of Great Recession. Back when the Tsunami hit in 2004, we were all feeling rich. At the time, no Government talked about budget deficits and austerity measures (with the exception of Japan that was already suffering from deflation). When the earthquake hit Haiti, the Great Recession was in full swing but Governments were still talking about stimulus packages and not worrying about deficits. Unfortunately, by the time Pakistan needed help this summer, all the talk was about deficits and looking for ways to cut back on expenses. Dark clouds had gathered on the economic horizon, and they were not about to blow away. Result? Aid for Pakistan is not at the top of anybody's agenda. The EU is an exception and has offered aid, but it hasn't been followed by European governments.
Four: donors are hesitant about Pakistan because of local politics. Ok, neither Pakistan nor Haiti are paragons of democratic virtue. Indeed, in this respect, Haiti and Pakistan are in an odd race to outdo each other: it is hard to decide which is worse, which suffers more from corruption, illegality and blatant cases of injustice. But Pakistan's brand of corruption meshes with the Afghan/Taliban/War-on-Terror mess.
The conclusion? Pakistan is left behind. And the latest news - the US will provide 2 billion dollars in military aid - is just adding insult to the injury suffered by the flood victims. Yes, because with all that money going to the military, it isn't very likely, is it, that something will be left for them...In the meantime, the absence of international donors opens the door to militants from Islam, who have rushed in with a lot of fanfare, to help their brothers. Lately we haven't heard much from them, and I wonder where they are and whether they are still helping out. Does anybody know?
Is Haiti better off? Hardly. With all the funds supposedly flowing to Haiti over the past 9 months, the involved "authorities" both in Haiti (the government) and abroad (the donors) have been discussing endlessly how to spend them. Precious little has been done on the ground. The rubble is still overflowing in the streets, and just one group of entrepreneurs with a few machines has started to work to remove them. Major cleanup and rebuilding is only expected to start...NEXT year! Most of the victims are still living in refugee camps and makeshift tents. And now cholera has descended on them. Some 1500 persons are already sick and 135 dead. Of course, the same fate threatens refugees in Pakistan...but will we hear about them?
This is a dreadful second round in the humanitarian aid going - or rather not going - to both countries...The way things are set now, my guess is that the score Haiti vs Pakistan, will be 0-0...