Foreign disasters compete for international aid

Some people wary of donating after flooding in Pakistan

Ayame Ulrich

Two global catastrophes have left millions of people crying for help, yet many are wondering if Manitoba has helped Haitians and Pakistanis equally.

According to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), the United Kingdom’s umbrella organization for 13 humanitarian aid agencies, at least 20 million people have been affected by the floods in Pakistan with over 1,500 dead from flood-related disease. As a result, the Pakistani government has appealed to the United Nations (UN) for $459 million in relief aid. Nearly a month after the massive floods began, the country has received $687.2 million in donations from around the world, as stated by the development initiative Global Humanitarian Assistance.

The situation has drawn international comparison to the fallout of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010. With 220,000 people dead and approximately 1.5 million homeless, there was a global outpouring of aid within weeks accompanied by social media and aid organization campaigns that raised over $577 million within days, according to the BBC.

When it comes to aid funding from the Manitoba government for the two disasters, the Manitoba Council for International Co-operation (MCIC), a coalition that distributes funds of donating organizations including the provincial government and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), said that the amounts were equal – eventually.

“The province gave $200,000 to both Haiti and Pakistan. Not as quickly, though,” said Zach Gross, MCIC’s outreach co-ordinator. “At first they only gave Pakistan $100,000. I think they realized that even though the publicity isn’t as great, the disaster is as great.”

...People have a (misinformed) concept of terrorism - people think maybe we are supporting terrorists. They do not know if the money will get to the victims, or if it will go to terrorists

Muhammad Waseem Jahangir, Manitoba Islamic Association

According to Shahzad Musaddiq, media correspondent for the Islamic Social Services Association Inc., Haiti received more immediate attention than Pakistan because of the timing of each disaster.
“It’s still summer,” he said. “People may be vacationing – once we get back to work, back to school, people will realize, ‘Oh wow, this thing has been going on for a month now.’”

With the Canadian Government announcing that it will match each donation made to registered charitable organizations between Aug. 2 and Sept. 12, Musaddiq believes that Manitobans will be more inclined to contribute.

“It will encourage people (to donate) – they know that what they give will be doubled,” he said. “And I think that even having a cap on the timing will help the urgency. We’ve all got to look out for each other, regardless if there is a personal connection.”

Multiple natural disasters and a lack of information about the Pakistan disaster may not be the only reasons people are wary of donating, according to some members of Winnipeg’s Islamic community.

“...People have a (misinformed) concept of terrorism – people think maybe we are supporting terrorists,” said Muhammad Waseem Jahangir, a representative of the Manitoba Islamic Association. “They do not know if the money will get to the victims, or if it will go to terrorists.”

Jahangir asks that people put themselves in the shoes of affected Pakistanis and consider the human factor in the crisis.

“What if it were my country? What if my children were dying like that? How would I feel then?” he said.

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