Why don’t we care more about Pakistan?

Waiting for relief, AP Photo.

I feel guilty. I haven’t given yet… I haven’t written yet. I haven’t cried yet. When Haiti’s earthquake happened, I was glued to the TV, watching story after story, sobbing at what I saw. But I only half-read stories on the Pakistan flood on Yahoo news. I saw some heart-wrenching photos in the New York Times. And I didn’t pursue it.

Photo of evacuees in Sindh province. Reuters/Akhtar Soomro

There’s something wrong with me – but I’m not alone. The response to the Pakistan floods has been underwhelming by any measure. The United Nations has raised only half its appeal for $460 million, despite the fact that Pakistan’s worst flooding in a decade has created a crisis affecting more people than the South Asia tsunami, South Asia earthquake, and Haiti earthquake combined.

Displaced survivor. AP photo/Aaron Favila

U.S. relief efforts for Haiti raised $241 million in two weeks; for Pakistan, it was $58 million. A Red Cross text appeal (donate $10 by punching in “Swat” to #50555) raised $31 million for Haiti – and $10,000 for Pakistan.

Desperate for relief - AP Photo/Aaron Favila

Is it tragedy fatigue? Is it the Arab disconnect — the burqas on the women who are neck-deep in water, holding their babies above the floods? Is it the geography that reminds us so much of Afghanistan and Iraq where we’re entangled in the longest wars in American history? Or is just that we figure they hate us … so why should we care about them?

I don’t know. All I know is that I feel really badly, all of a sudden, to think that I could turn my head away and pretend it’s not happening.

Refugee children wait for relief supplies. AP Photo

It’s happening. 1/4 of the country is underwater. $13 billion of crops, railways and towns have been obliterated, and 80% of the food stock depleted. 20 million people are affected, 4 million displaced, and 3 million children are at risk of deadly water-borne diseases like cholera.

These people are desperate, starving, in need of our help. And maybe – just maybe if we help them now, they will remember that when the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and all the other rabble-rousers come round hoping to recruit a few new suicide bombers – and they’ll choose life, hope and a future instead.

Scrambling for air-dropped relief supplies. AP Photo/Khalid Tanveer

But even without a political agenda, I’m giving $100 to Oxfam today because it’s the decent, humane, compassionate thing to do. I wish I’d done it before.

AP Photo/Fareed Khan

Oxfam is a renowned international confederation of 14 agencies working together to combat poverty and injustice in 99 countries, alongside partner organizations on the ground. It has already brought clean water and hot food to 182,000 Pakistanis, and plans to reach 600,000 people in the hardest-hit areas with water, sanitation kits, and hygiene supplies to halt the spread of disease. I love this organization, and it’s received the highest rating by Charity Navigator for years.

A Four-Star Charity

I hope you’ll join me in donating here. Or for other great places to give, click here.