Helping Pakistan: Should Canadians be more generous?

On Cross Country Checkup: helping Pakistan.

Flooding has affected 17-million people in Pakistan and observers say it's only a matter of time before disease and hunger strike. International aid has been slow for such a huge disaster.

What do you think? Should Canadians be more generous?

With guest host Chris Hall.

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Guest host Chris Hall's introduction to the August 29, 2010 program

Our topic today: Should Canadians be more generous in helping Pakistan?

The images are heart-wrenching..

We've all seen them.

The photo of a man clinging to debris as muddy water swirls around his neck... Another of a mother and child lying, huddled together in a make-shift lean-to... a small pile of their possessions nearby. The video of an aid worker doling out packages of food from the back of a truck while another man swings a pole like a bludgeon in a vain attempt to keep order among the throng of desperate people.

This is Pakistan...where an estimated 20 million have been displaced in the past month by flooding. And more than 1600 have died. Where floodwaters rose slowly, but would finally cover an area the size of England. Food. Shelter. Drinking water. The most basic necessities of life...remain in short supply.

Yet the global response to this crisis has been sluggish. Including here in Canada.

Do you think Canadians can and should be doing more?

Canadians have a long history of donating when disaster strikes. They gave millions of dollars to help people in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. And just this past January, donations came quickly to help people who lost everything in the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

The same hasn't been true for Pakistan. Some suggest it's because the flood inflicted its devastation over weeks - instead of minutes. That this disaster lacked the enormity...the immediate catastrophic consequences...of the earthquake in Haiti.

The Canadian government initially pledged $3 million dollars. It later increased that amount to $33 million. But that's a fraction of what was pledged to rebuild Haiti.

It's not just in Canada. Donations have lagged around the world. The United Nations raised nearly $600 million dollars in the first 10 days of its appeal for donations to assist Haiti. The same appeal for Pakistan raised less than half that amount. At the same time, reports from Pakistan suggest charities tied to extremist groups - and the Taliban - are stepping in... delivering aid to areas the government can't.

Some observers believe it's donor fatigue... Even media fatigue in covering another disaster in a country far from Canada.

Donors wonder if the money they give reaches the people who need it most.

And then there are the analysts... Some of whom suggest Pakistan's political instability... It's uncertain commitment to the war on terror... that keeps people from digging into purse and pocket.

We want to hear what you think.

The Canadian government pledged last week that it will match aid pledged to Pakistan flood victims, dollar-for-dollar, until September 12th.

Could Canadians be donating more?

What's your view on how governments and aid agences are responding? Are you worried that the money you give won't be used properly? Do you worry that the slow response will set back efforts to defeat extremism in the region?

I'm Chris Hall ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 137 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.

Links Mail

Charity begins at home. Has anyone done a follow up story on the Native reserve that got wiped out by the Tornado?

A list of what countries have donated what should be posted as a lot of people have no idea. For instance, has Germany donated anything?

Thank You,
John Birmingham
Grande Prairie, AB

I worry that the money will not get to the victims, and I think about Pakistan's support of the Taliban.

I would like to know which agencies are "in" Pakistan delivering aid, and specifically if the Mennonite Central Committee is there. That is about the only charity I really trust do what they say they'll do.

I am just unsure about giving. I have the money to give, but I just don't want it to be misused, or to pay for administration costs of the charities asking for the money.

Peter Smith
Winnipeg, MB

That's completely terrible! I'm just an 11-year-old boy and I want to help. It kills me inside when you look in magazines from all around the world, see all those rich people, and then see the disastrous results. Celebrities should donate some money to charities and be helpful.

Sean den Hollander

I believe the lack of response to the Pakistani floods is a purely geopolitical issue.

Canadians are never wary of opening up their wallets for those in need, at home or abroad. However, unlike most other disasters, Pakistan's policies, particularly towards the Taliban have had an impact on the view we hold. Why should we give to a country that is alleged to be aiding a group responsible for the death of our soldiers? Why donate to someone we have no idea where their loyalties lie? Those are the questions people have asked themselves, and the answers have led to a looking the other way attitude.

Delroy Dyer
Ottawa, ON

I wanted to donate at the onset of the disaster but, like most, I waited for information on an easy way to this. The media did nothing that I could discern to let the public know of where we could provide assistance. I finally Googled and discovered that my bank, TD, was accepting donations and in turn giving those dollars to the Red Cross. I went in on the 29th and the teller had no idea how to receive the donations. I asked to speak to a floor manager who also did not know and checked her data base at which time they finally accepted the money. I asked if they had received donations yet. They had not... after a week.

I just heard one of your speaker state that this is a high profile disaster. I disagree. The media and the corporate world are not doing nearly enough to mobilize support for this disaster. It is appalling!

Sean Gander
Winnipeg, MB

While we all feel great sorrow for the plight of these people, I wonder how much Muslim and Arab countries are donating? How about the Saudis coughing up some cash instead of buying another gold plated Mercedes?

Duncan MacFarlane

It seems to me as disasters happen throughout the year, whether by earthquakes, volcanoes or floods, the UN should have a special fund set up for that eventuality. Rather than have individual fundraising campaigns there should be a fund set up for these disasters. If the UN set up a fund with various governments contributing to this fund then when a disaster happens this fund can be accessed for relief.

In addition, if warehouses were set up with the various things like tents, water and dried food at locations throughout the world, then it would be available in a timely matter for dispensing. We shouldn't have to go through individual fundraising campaigns for each disaster.

Thank you,
Maurice Boulanger
Salmon Arm, BC

I feel horrible for the people in Pakistan as well as those still dealing with issues in Haiti, but I also feel for those still having problems in New Orleans. I heard the term "donor fatigue" today and it fits me perfectly. I feel like there's always something, somewhere. Has anyone else noticed that there seems to be bigger natural disasters with more frequency?

I realize that all the aid and charitable agencies are doing their best with what they have, but I think it's time to step back a little and develop a different approach to these disasters. Clearly the current tactics are no longer as effective as they need to be. It's only a matter of time until we are hit with something we are totally unprepared for and we'll be the ones needing aid. Who will come to our aid?

I think it's time for our government to stop sending anything other than perhaps matching donations. I'm not saying that the $30 million our government is sending should be kept here to provide luxuries for us but I think it needs to be spent more wisely. Simply giving money to these countries is less effective than providing them with the tools for immediate and long term recovery. Send in heavy equipment and people to train the locals how to use it and then keep the equipment working 24/7 with locals helping themselves. Build camps for the workers and their families and feed and cloth them as long as they're working. If my neighbours and I all lost our jobs in some sort of disaster I would be happy to work all day clearing and rebuilding for all of us in a community. All I would need is shelter and food to keep me going. Help them help themselves.

Richard Weighill

I am working on flood relief here in Montreal. I understand that people have concerns about the Pakistani government and Pakistan's support of the Taliban. However, the people affected by the floods have nothing to do with the decisions that the government or the extremists chose to make. These are innocent people desperate for food and medicine. It is not a time to pass judgement on Pakistanis. It is a time to ask how we can help.

If corporations like Air Canada were willing to dispatch an aircraft to Pakistan and took care packages with goods that are desperately needed such as medicine, non-perishable, high-energy food and water, then we would be able to help Pakistan much more efficiently while appeasing anxieties of Canadians that don't feel like giving money. Air Canada is waiting for established Aid agencies to contact them. The needs are immediate and our corporation are stuck on bureaucracy.

I think people can call Canadian corporations and ask them to help Pakistan. Perhaps letters to Air Canada, Air Transat and Westjet would help. We all need to do more for Pakistan at this time of need. I know Canadians will open their hearts when given the correct information.

Arshad Khan
Montreal, QC

All of my sympathy goes out to the Pakistani people who are suffering. I sincerely hope they receive the aid they need.

I suppose it is no coincidence that the regions most affected are also by and large the regions who wanted little to do with the Pakistani government during the good times. But now that something bad has happened everyone is clamoring for government support. We only want government when things are bad. Pakistan citizens share that with us at least.

As far as donations go, I remember seeing a few poorly photocopied Red Cross solicitations, with no information on where to go, or any commitment that any donations would actually go to help with Pakistan flood relief efforts.

Nobody has set up a bank account, or any way to clearly donate money to help Pakistan. Obviously they need the help, If 8 million Canadians needed emergency help, I'm sure the world NGO's, the UN, and almost every country on earth would be stampeding to help us.

There is something different about the relief for Pakistan. I think it is because of where the flood happened. They are the people who are fighting our troops, offering sanctuary to people who are fighting our troops, and people whose tribal society has not yet accepted by and large that in order to succeed long term, we need to live in a strong state system.

Robert Pratt
London, ON

Surely, racism or Islamophobia is a reason many are unwilling to help. Sadly, it is entwined with the other reasons including Pakistani government corruption and their secret service's collaboration with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Andrew Pakula
Toronto, ON

Regarding the question as to why donations to Pakistan are lower than those received for the Haiti Earthquake, I would like to suggest than one contributing factor may be the lack of personal connections that many Canadians have to Pakistan.

My church has launched a significant program to support relief and rebuilding in Haiti, and it is interesting to note that many members of our congregation have visited Haiti personally, before the earthquake. Lots of people I know have been to Haiti on work teams or know someone who has. On the other hand, I don't think there is a single person in our church of several hundred who has ever been to Pakistan. When you have a personal connection to a place it is much easier to donate money to it.

I encourage the Pakistani community to become more visible and vocal in raising support for this important need.

Alicia Good
Uxbridge, ON

As with the tsunami disaster, I am wondering where the other wealthy Muslim nations are during this? How much are Saudi Arabia and other oil-wealthy, mid-eastern countries giving? Why should we everyday struggling Canadians and other westerners keep giving when we hear nothing about how the other Muslim countries are contributing?

Susan Bouchat
Brandon, MB

I'm becoming irritated by the number of callers complaining about the level of aid of the Canadian government - i.e. the Canadian people. So far, in addition to committing matching funds (with no cap), the government has also pledged $30 million. Using the standard factor of 10 for the US and Canadian economies and populations, the equivalent US commitment would be $300 million, and the EU commitment would be about the same. The EU pledge is $90 million, and the USA pledge about $150 - no comparison at all.

Canadians have no reason to feel embarrassed by our official commitments so far - whatever the shortcomings of provate and NGO contributions may be.

Few callers also recognize the immense logistic difficulties of floods (as opposed, say, to earthquakes), and the difficulty of delivering any kind of aid to isolated victims.

William Bauer
Hensall, ON

I seem to remember hearing that 25-30 billions dollars are needed to aid Pakistan. That's pocket change for Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich Gulf states, Muslim brothers and sisters of Pakistan. So why call on the West?

After all, Northwest Pakistan is a hotbed of extremism, where large numbers of people want to kill us in the West, it's the birthplace of the madrasas that gave the world the Taliban, it's where the people protect and send out fighters to kill Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. It's hard to feel full sympathy for people in that region. And it's not like they don't have resources, given their obscenely rich friends around the Persian Gulf.

Don Adams
Toronto, ON

In regards to our response to the situation in Pakistan, I don't really believe that donor fatigue is a huge concern. The money is out there. Just look at how much money is grossed every time a new movie is released. In my opinion, I believe that people are concerned about how the donations will be used and whether the money may get into the wrong hands. We are worried rightfully about the Taliban. In recognition that Islam is a religion of peace and that almost all of the victims of this disaster are innocent, the terrorists have gotten our attention. They have declared us as their enemies.

As of yet, I have not donated anything to help these poor, poor people, but I will now look into reputable aid agencies. Why? Because as a Christian I choose to follow the teachings of Jesus and he said that we need to "Love our enemies" and to "treat our neighbors as ourselves."

Wendy Hunter
Calgary, AB

I think professor Mansoor he is missing the point with the Pakistani vs. Indian issue. I agree with him that the Pakistani's have not done themselves any favours, however, if he thinks that Muslims and Hindi's will come together and drink from the cup of peace, then he is very naive. Sunnis and Shiites can not live in peace. To compare them to Canada vs. USA is utter nonsense.

Robert Davies
Redhill, UK

Many of us in Canada consider ourselves to be Christians. Jesus taught us "Love your enemies." That is something we can read without much trouble, because we are so seldom called upon to act on it.
We know that among the millions of flood victims in Pakistan there will be some who are our enemies. If what we contribute as money reaches Pakistan as food and medicine and water purification eqipment, we are not giving our enemies anything that can be used against us.

On the other hand, if we don't give, we are leaving those who trust us, and those who are merely neutral to suffer and die along with those who are in fact enemies.

We don't have to be blind or stupid in what we give or whose hands we place it in. But if in this enormous humanitarian disaster we turn our backs on everyone because of the possible enemies who might receive some lifesaving food from us, then we are not living up to our beliefs as Christians, and we are not earning the trust that we seek from the people of a country that we hope is an ally.

Wendy Hamblin
100 Mile House, BC

Good afternoon.

I believe the media's constant references to the lack of trust Canadians have for the Pakistani government is creating or inflating a lack of trust in the Pakistani government. I don't know any individuals who truly care about the government of Pakistan in this situation. I gave because I can't imagine not helping. I don't understand why the press is so determined to remind us we shouldn't trust them. When I donate, and I do, I make my contributions through agencies like the Canadian Red Cross and Doctors without Borders, I don't write a cheque to the Pakistani government.

The government of Haiti was equally corrupt and ineffective, and everyone gave without reservation. The media personalized the Haiti earthquake for the world; foreign nationals trapped in the Montana Hotel, a group of Canadian students who had just gotten off the plane when disaster struck, etc. Putting names, faces and stories of affected individuals in the headlines, rather than focusing on government mismanagement. The same was true for the Katrina earthquake response and the Tsunami in Asia. I haven't seen that kind of coverage in this instance.

One other consideration which may be affecting how much Canadians give or do not give is the timing. Both the Tsunami and the Haitian earthquake happened during the Christmas season; Boxing Day and January 12. At that time of year we are more attuned to the needs of others, and tend to give more freely.

Please continue to cover the story in Pakistan, but perhaps focus more on how individuals are coping, how organizations are helping, and showing the good internationals donations do. Please stop telling us to be afraid to donate.

Thank you,
Deborah Turner-Davis
Whitehorse, YK

Canada has a very small economy and population and we are too far away to send more people to add to the problem. The burden to help Pakistan is on those countries closest to that country. This is where the Taliban, with the millions it earns from terrorist sponsoring nations, can help. They have money too.

Also those nations in that general area can realistically provide the help that is needed including but are not limited are China and India. We ought to be focusing our time and money on the good work our military is doing around the world and carry through with the funds committed to Haiti.

Harvey Heinz

Based upon several of the concerns already voiced on the program, I was slow to donate. After a bit of research on agencies. I settled on sending money to the Humanitarian Coalitions composed of CARE Canada, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam Quebec and Save the Children Canada. The web site is and these organizations are among the top rated by the American Institute of Philanthropy,, for the high percentage of a donation usefully reaching those who need the help.

I think we should help the people who need aid immediately. But we should voice concern that floods will recur. Regions likely to suffer periodic flooding can be identified. People should not live in those regions without proper infrastructure to enable them to do so safely. We are not likely to want to keep forking out aid for the same catastrophe over and over again just because people do not protect themselves appropriately.

Roger Palfree
Pointe-Claire, QC

I'm bothered by the comments on the show today that say the reason that Canadians donated money to Haiti was because of Governor General Michaëlle Jean's appeal. She did a wonderful job of supporting her fellow Haitians, but who spoke to stir the response to the victims of the Tsunami? As a Canadian and a pensioner, I have given to all three. Where there is human suffering like these three catastrophes, I do the little bit that I can. My own heart tells me there is a need to help other human beings, not a representative of our government.

Vancouver, BC

I am listening to your program and some people have raised the issue of Pakistan having nuclear weapons as one reason for the lack of support to Pakistan right now. I am wondering if the issue of nuclear weapons was raised when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans five years ago as Canadians gave generously but the U.S. also had nuclear weapons?

Thanks for an interesting program.
C. Roy
Nova Scotia

I can't give money to a natural disaster that occurs year after year after year. We haven't resolved many of our own local issues, giving to other countries personally, not federally, gives me second and third thoughts.

The leadership of Pakistan and India fail time and again to protect (and prepare) their own people & resources from natual disasters. Either corruption, poor building practices, or other factors lead to larger effect of disasters. I also find it an insurmountable task to support 20 million displaced people.

And on the flip side, if we were in the same situation, would they assist us the way they seem to expect us to do for them? Many aspire to live in North America to avoid these issues I mention.

Monica I.
Edmonton, AB

If people are reluctant to donate funds to this flood in Pakistan, which appears to be taking on Biblical proportions, may I suggest making a loan to a microcredit organization? These small loans, which start at $25, will enable farmers and entrepreneurs to get back on their feet once the waters recede. Organizations such as Kiva enable lenders to choose the projects and the money is eventually paid back. It's painless and does a great deal of good.

Worth a try.

Lorraine DeVanthay
Ottawa, ON

Get their nukes before offering any help. If you can afford nukes, you don't need help.

Graham Godfrey
Abbotsford, BC
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