Pakistan Flood Dwarfs Recent Crises, No One Cares

Epic flooding in Pakistan is a humanitarian crisis which dwarfs the combined devastation of the 2004 Asian tsunami, the earthquake in Pakistan in 2005, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Why aren't we paying attention?

Jeb Koogler laments the woefully inadequate Western response to the floods in Pakistan.

With a humanitarian crisis in Pakistan which dwarfs the combined devastation of the 2004 Asian tsunami, the earthquake in Pakistan in 2005, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the lack of media attention that the flooding has received is surprising. Whereas the destruction wrought by the Haitian earthquake, for example, brought millions of dollars in donations as well as public campaigns by prominent American figures to raise money for Haiti’s reconstruction, the latest humanitarian crisis in Pakistan has brought little of the same sympathy or support. Western media outlets are barely covering the story, and donations — both by Western governments and by private citizens — have been far more meager than with past natural disasters of this scale.

The explanations for this include sympathy fatigue and the government’s double game which makes them simultaneously our enemy and our ally.  But we cared in 2005.  And it’s not Indonesia and Sri Lanka are our bosom buddies.

Even at OTB, where we had dozens of posts on the 2004 tsunami and its after-effects, we’ve only touched on the subject.  And, if the number of comments a post attracts is an indication of reader interest, it’s not a subject that’s exactly capturing the imagination.

My Atlantic Council colleague, Shuja Nawaz, has done yeoman work in calling attention to the enormity of this tragedy.   Below is an aggregation of the key articles and media appearances:

Articles:

Media:

Event:

Additional Resources:

Please follow and like us:
FILED UNDER: Asia, Natural Disasters, World Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Franklin says:

    It’s far away, I don’t think I know anybody of Pakistani descent, and there’s the chance the Taliban will just steal the money or kill the aid workers.  What’s not to like?
    /I’ll still probably donate something through Mercy Corps or similar

  2. Brummagem Joe says:

    It is disturbing but I think part of the problem is that the Pakistani govt outside of the military is essentially dysfunctional. The military are not going to let outsiders come in and take over the rescue ops or even assume a highly visible role, and the rest of the world is deeply wary of pouring vasts amounts of money into a system where much of it will get stolen by the political class.   

  3. Herb says:

    I can only speak for myself, but I suspect other people may be feeling similarly.  After Katrina, the tsunami, the various earthquakes, oil spills, volcanoes, mine collapses….I’m a little disastered out.
    It’s not that I don’t care  –I do– but what can I do?  Give money to the Red Cross again for the umpteenth time?  If I was Sean Penn, I’d jet off to whatever part of the world is hurting, but I’m just a non-rich dude with problems of his own.

  4. Maggie Mama says:

    Yup, disasters are definitely getting “old”. 

    But also there are some who may believe that (1) Pakistan is hiding Osama Bin Laden and (2) Many of these folks want us dead so it seems just a tad stupid to lay out money to keep them alive so they can turn around and kill Americans.

  5. JKB says:

    Well, the only story I’ve read about the floods was linked to here.  The framing of the story as to how even with the hundreds of millions of dollar sent by the US, the US is still a worthless country that everyone should hate since the money compared little to what we’ve spent on the war.  Or the extortion angle, where if the US helps, maybe they won’t hate us.
     
    Quite frankly, if I want to be lectured about how evil America is and how horrible Americans are, I’ll listen to Obama.
     
    But then a google search for news brings up few stories about US efforts other than heart and minds.  Even the VOA article barely mentions efforts by the US military.  If our own government and own media don’t want to cover American efforts, why should the American people care?  I see, James has several links to stories about NATO which is code for US since few countries have capabilities to go beyond operating airports into the countryside.
     
    And of course, let’s not forget that floods aren’t sexy.  Look at how our own president and media ignored the Nashville flooding.  No political points in attacking the president, the MSM wanted nothing to do with it.

  6. Maxwell James says:

    It’s a bad economy. But I gave to the relief effort and persuaded two family members (so far) to do so as well.
    Since Pakistan is a) an ally, b) a shelter for extremists, and c) probably the most unstable nuclear power in the world, I see giving to the relief effort as an important way to support national security.

  7. Jay Dubbs says:

    Clearly if they weren’t trying to build a Victory Mosque to the 19 Martyrs Who Brought America to its Knees at Ground Zero, Americans would be more sympathetic.

  8. ponce says:

    “b) a shelter for extremists”
     
    Let’s not forget it was the hapless U.S. military that chased al Qaeda into Pakistan…
     
    FWIW, the CBS Evening News did a piece on the floods last night.

  9. tgchicago says:

    I wonder if the term “flood” simply doesn’t fire our imagination the way “tsunami”, “hurricane”, and “earthquake” do.  Many people in Nashville complained that they were not receiving sufficient coverage when they were recently hit with severe flooding.
     
    Many of us have put up with some degree of flooding (in our basement, or perhaps flash flood warnings, etc.)  Maybe if there was a more dire term — “superflood” or something — it would sound scarier and thus provoke more response.

  10. Doug Kinder says:

    You know, for their part, the Pakistan’s are sure happy to blame US for the flood. Have you seen this stuff going around about how we caused the flood with a secret weather control device? I’m not kidding you. Check this out: http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/4561.htm
    I mean, come on…a secret weather control device? Wouldn’t we be flooding North Korea or Iran? That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard, and yet it seems to be accepted as completely rational by people like Ahmed Quraishi who is not some nobody blogger but a TV news anchor!
    Of course, these are the same people who think that everything – including Wikileaks – is a “INDO-ZIONIST CONSPIRACY”: http://www.pakalertpress.com/2010/08/05/wikileaks-an-indo-zionist-conspiracy/
    About the floods, though, I sent a text message to give $10, and I would be willing to do more. But it really bugs the hell out of me that we’ve given literally BILLIONS OF DOLLARS to Pakistan and it seems like they keep accusing us of weirder and weirder stuff. For all the talk about why don’t we respect Pakistan, shouldn’t that go both ways?

  11. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Quite frankly, if I want to be lectured about how evil America is and how horrible Americans are, I’ll listen to Obama.”

    And the Pakistani militants are irrational?

  12. just me says:

    I also kind of think ongoing disaster situations get less press than one big event disaster-for instance a tsunami or hurricane are big single event disasters.  Pronlonged flooding not so much.
     
    I think the fact that floods aren’t quite as exciting as a massive tsunami, hurricane or earthquake combined with distance often creates a media disinterest and if the media isn’t beating it out every day then people generally don’t care and some may not even notice.  I know some people if it doesn’t show up on the “tonight on channel 6” news summary during the commericals chances are they aren’t going to know it was an issue.
     
     

  13. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***Let’s not forget it was the hapless U.S. military that chased al Qaeda into Pakistan…***

    Tt would have been nice if our political l leaders would have had the stones to let our military follow them.

    ***And the Pakistani militants are irrational?***

     lol I and others have done much study into  the Cult of the liberal 20%Er’s and have come to a consensus that you all  share the belief and only care about  how evil America is and how horrible Americans are.

    It is your great Satan also.

    And you are nothing more then religious zealots under the spell of self righteousness.

    What puzzles us is that you have no logical moral basis to base these beliefs on hence the cult like status we have giving to your religion.

    How about we start a aid for terrorists progam? And no I don’t  mean like the one we have going on right now by way of the U.N.

  14. JKB says:

    Well, let’s see the Islamist Leader in Pakistan Says Accepting Flood Relief From U.S. and India Is Like ‘Poison’ And lobbies that US aid not be accepted.  Pakistan dithers on accepting monetary aid from India.  They deny visas to 400 Indian doctors waiting to provide aid and also the very effective Israeli disaster assistance teams.  Seems to me this is more a partisan political issue for those in Pakistan.  Not to mention a “send cash it’s easier to steal” opportunity for the NGOs.
     
    Oh and you have to look hard to find that the US is the largest provider of aid and actually has air assets in country

    The U.S. has been the largest donor by far to the aid effort, committing 19 U.S. Marine and U.S. Navy helicopters to the task of delivering relief and evacuating people stranded by floodwaters. Apart from Pakistan itself the only other countries known to have provided military helicopters are the United Arab Emirates and Japan.

    Where is this NATO assistance we heard of?  Sure, it is more than just a joint military organization but they don’t have helos and personnel to deploy?  Is Europe good for anything in a disaster other than running their mouth?

  15. sam says:

    Yeah, this website is something to see: http://www.pakalertpress.com
    I’m tempted to comment on one the stories over there about US weather manipulation along the lines of, “You got that right MFers … and just wait until you see what else we got for you: SCMW-M1 –Sex Change Mega Weapon-Mark 1. We can turn your balls inside out from space. And don’t for one minute think we not going to.”
     
     

  16. ponce says:

    “Tt would have been nice if our political l leaders would have had the stones to let our military follow them.”
    Why did they need to follow them?
    IIRC, back then the US Army was divided into 10 Divisions including two airborne and one mountain.
    See if you could use them to devise a plan that kept al Qaeda from fleeing over the mountains into Pakistan…

  17. sam says:

    @JKB
    “Well, let’s see the Islamist Leader in Pakistan Says Accepting Flood Relief From U.S. and India Is Like ‘Poison’ And lobbies that US aid not be accepted. Pakistan dithers on accepting monetary aid from India.”
     
    OTOH, right next to that story in the sidebar is this one: <a href=”http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/71370″>Pakistan Accepts Flood Aid From India</a>
    Date Aug. 20.
     

  18. sam says:

    lol I and others have done much study into the Cult of the liberal 20%Er’s and have come to a consensus that you all share the belief and only care about how evil America is and how horrible Americans are.

    It is your great Satan also.

    Ah, shut up, GA, that’s dumb even for you.

  19. reid says:

    “Quite frankly, if I want to be lectured about how evil America is and how horrible Americans are, I’ll listen to Obama.”
    And the Pakistani militants are irrational?

     
    No kidding.  It feels like a glimpse into the twisted mind of a Glenn Beck viewer *shudder*.  Why o why won’t Obama stop going on about how Evil America is?

  20. G.A.Phillips says:

    hmmmmmm………