Finally, their ordeal is over! Rescued now and recuperated, the 33 Chilean miners can look forward to a new beginning, thanks to the international media’s meticulous round-the-clock coverage that propelled the rescue efforts forward. I wish I could credit them for meeting out the same treatment regarding the worst ever floods in the history of Pakistan, which have affected 20 million people and have exceeded the combined total of victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami as well as the 2005 Pakistan and 2010 Haiti earthquakes. At present, the western media has completely blacked out news about the plight of such a huge number of stranded people. Yet, news regarding the burning of NATO’s supply containers in Pakistan has been quite successfully incorporated into the headlines.
The floods have caused colossal damage to agriculture, industry, trade, communications, as well as public and private property. Nearly 70% of Pakistan’s population earns a living from agriculture and about 74,000 km2 of the most fertile crop land has been inundated by the flood waters. The International Labor Organization reported that more than 5.3 million jobs have been lost due to the floods and there is the possibility of long term food shortages. The overall cost of the damage is estimated to be 5 billion US dollars, a number which is bound to increase. Furthermore, diseases pose a new threat to the health of victims as well as livestock.
Some sections of the international press have expressed concern that the floods will divert the Pakistani military’s attention away from fighting the Taliban. Reports have been circulating that the Taliban have been making inroads in the affected regions by engaging in the relief efforts.However, the fact remains that the level of devastation is such that most of the roads are still under water and only the Pakistan Army or Navy have access to them. The hype created by suggesting that there is any Taliban involvement is baseless. Besides, not a single incident to date supports this viewpoint.
The Army and Navy troops deployed in the affected areas have completed the evacuation process, rescuing more than 400,000 people. In response to Pakistan’s appeal, limited assistance has started pouring in. The United Nations raised the sum sought by its disaster appeal from 0.46 to 2 billion US dollars. Nevertheless, the situation in the ensuing months is going to become even more crucial as the government will have to deal with the uphill and time consuming task of rehabilitation. This will require huge funds to meet expenditure on the reconstruction of accommodation, provision of facilities for the victims, and adequate financial assistance to enable them to get back on their feet.
Long term measures need to be sustainable and capable of addressing environmental and demographic issues in a befitting manner. Meaningful success in the rehabilitation of the victims cannot be achieved without the full and timely support of the international community.
The colossal devastation caused by the floods has come at a time when Pakistan is already beset with the enormous losses incurred from fighting terrorism. No country with the resources and capacity of Pakistan could meet an assault of such magnitude on its economy. The international media is required to intensify its coverage in order to convince international leaders, private concerns, and the general public to extend their full support to Pakistan. A lot of those in international circles are hesitant in donating to Pakistan for the fear that such assistance might be pocketed by several corrupt institutions or politicians.
Yet, is this reason enough not to help the suffering victims? International aid agencies can always monitor the aid money and make sure that it is being invested in the intended areas. Pakistan’s response to the flood catastrophe depends upon the degree of financial assistance provided by the international community. If the international media provided half the coverage that it did for the Chilean miners, Pakistan would find enough helping hands to overcome the biggest humanitarian crisis of its history.
Sidra Tariq works as a cross-culture intern at atlantic-community.org. She holds a Masters Degree in International Relations from Quaid-i- Azam University, Islamabad.
- Editorial Team: Floods in Pakistan: Should the West be Doing More?
- Osama Bin Javaid: Donor Fatigue is No Excuse in Pakistan