Canadians donate millions for Pakistani relief

Fundraising organizations across Canada are tallying up donations to flood-stricken Pakistan after a federal government program matching donations ended Sunday night.

Tally being done after government's matching aid program ended Sunday night

Pakistani villagers raise hands to get food dropped from an army helicopter at a flood-hit area of Kot Addu in central Pakistan. ((Khalid Tanveer/Associated Press))

Fundraising organizations across Canada are tallying up donations to flood-stricken Pakistan after a federal government program matching donations ended Sunday night.

The Canadian Red Cross raised $18 million to help those affected by the July flooding that killed 1,700 and displaced millions. Of the total, $8.8 million is eligible for the Pakistan Flood Relief Fund, the fund-matching program administered by the Canadian International Development Agency.

World Vision Canada raised $5.1 million for Pakistani relief. The Humanitarian Coalition, a network of four Canadian humanitarian organizations — Care Canada, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam Quebec and Save the Children Canada — raised close to $4 million.

The Canadian government has already pledged $33 million to helping flood victims, making it the fourth-largest donor to flood relief in Pakistan, CIDA reports. The government pledged an initial $2 million on Aug. 3 and announced an additional $31 million on Aug. 14.

While fundraisers called donations "good" and "solid," there was still some disappointment. 

"We still think we could have done more," said Kevin McCort, Care Canada's president.

For fundraisers like McCort, it was a difficult drive with a tepid initial response. The government's announcement it would match funds raised between Aug. 2 to Oct. 3 provided a "jump," but not a sustained response.

McCort also reported a small surge just before the program ended.

"People respond to deadlines," said McCort, whose organization helped bring in $250,000 to the Humanitarian Coalition over the last four days.

Nicolas Moyer, co-ordinator of the Humanitarian Coalition, said the most successful time for donations was near the matching program's initial September deadline. Over four days around Sept. 12, Canadians gave the coalition $800,000.

Moyer said it's clear that matching programs make a difference but they are most effective when the subject is in the news.

"If it's out of the news, it's out of mind for most Canadians," he said, adding the devastation caused by monsoon rains and flooding didn't shock people the same way an earthquake would have.

Caroline Riseboro, World Vision Canada's vice-president of public affairs, agreed that limited media coverage of Pakistan hampered donations, pointing out many Canadians had misconceptions about who had been affected by the flooding.

"If there's an emergency somewhere in the world and the media's not covering it, it's near impossible to raise money," Riseboro said.

She said media coverage is the main reason that World Vision raised $24 million for earthquake relief in Haiti while it raised $5.1 million for Pakistan.

Call for donations continues

Fundraisers say the end of the government-matching program and decreasing coverage of the floods will make it harder to raise funds for Pakistan.

"We could have done better and we can do better," Moyer said, adding there is still a huge need for money to rebuild thousands of homes and farms.

"In Pakistan, the situation hasn't gotten better. It has gotten worse."

Katie Kallio, a Red Cross spokeswoman, says the organization is still collecting donations in Canada while its aid workers in Pakistan work to rebuild communities.

Registered charities now have until Oct. 18 to submit their final donation figures to be matched.