Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Der Spiegel-Taliban Benefiting from Delayed U.S. Response in Pakistan

Villages in Pakistan underwater: Getty Images
(Story reported by Chris Hawley for Der Spiegel Online)

The floods in Pakistan are devastating and 6 million people need emergency assistance. But donations from the international community have been slow and insufficient. German commentators wonder why that is and express concern that the Taliban may benefit.

The good news is that, following the United Nations appeal for $460 million (€359 million) to help victims of the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan, $90 million (€70.2 million) worth of pledges rolled in on Thursday.

Furthermore, international assistance has begun gaining traction with the arrival of a US ship full of Marines and helicopters having arrived in Karachi. The helicopters immediately began delivering food and water to those still stranded in the worst-hit areas of the country a week after the disaster began.

Beyond that, though, the bad news is overwhelming. Officially, some 1,200 people have died in the flooding, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), but with as many as 6,000 villages under water and hunger and disease looming, the ultimate toll is likely to be much higher. In addition, 14 million people have been directly affected with 6 million of those requiring emergency aid.

"Make no mistake, this is a major catastrophe," OCHA head John Holmes said this week. "We have a huge task in front of us. The death toll has so far been relatively low compared to other major natural disasters, but the numbers affected are extraordinarily high."

And there is more bad news. Even as aid pledges from governments around the world have begun pouring in, private donations, often a substantial portion of disaster aid, has been little more than a trickle. Charities in Germany have complained about a lack of response so far while groups in the United Kingdom have also said that donations have lagged far behind other, similar catastrophes in the recent past.

(click here to read the full story on the Der Spiegel Online website)

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