By Naseer Memon
Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has said that only 40 percent of the funds have so far been received against the appeal launched by the UN. The UN launched an appeal for $ 356 million for support of the flood affectees in Sindh and Balochistan. So far, hardly $150 million could be mobilized. Whereas the scale of flood disaster this year surpassed the damages of previous year’s flood, donors’ response has been starkly lukewarm this time.
So far, European Commission, US, Japan, UK and Norway have been the major donors. According to the latest figures of the NDMA, 520 people died during the flood. Approximately 34,000 villages were affected and 1.6 million houses were damaged which affected more than 9.6 million people.
Rural economy in Sindh is ruined as cropped area over 2.2 million acres was damaged and more than 116,000 cattle heads were perished. According to the UN, the floods have wiped out 73 percent of standing crops, 36 percent of livestock, and 67 percent of food stocks in the 13 worst-affected districts of Sindh. Loss of crop and livelihood is a serious concern as these two are the key sources of livelihood in the flood affected areas.
Sluggish response by humanitarian aid community is causing severe stress on relief activities. Major shortfall is in critical areas of food security (86 pc) drinking water (83 pc) and shelter (49 pc). As a result of that three quarters of the total affected households in Sindh and Balochistan have not received any shelter assistance.
In winter, the need for shelter and blankets has increased. In Sindh and Balochistan, 3 million flood-affected people remain highly vulnerable and in need of immediate food assistance. According to aid agencies, over five million people urgently require agricultural support to resume food production and income generation activities.
Clearly, this situation is leading towards a lurking human crisis in the coming days. World Food Program has also raised concern on the shortfall of $107 million to cover food needs of critically affected communities till Feb 2012.
The agency has warned that if resources are not mobilised their stock will be exhausted by the end of November and they will be constrained to cut down the size of ration and number of people being assisted after December.
The latest update of NDMA on 2nd Dec shows approximately 232,000 people still living in 755 camps, requiring all kinds of assistance. According to UNOCHA, around 25 percent of the 9 million flood affected population is in danger of contracting various kinds diseases as cases of malaria, cholera, upper and lower respiratory tract infections, and skin diseases have been reported. This situation certainly calls for urgent action on the part of government and humanitarian aid community.
Donor’s response shows a downward trend in recent disasters. During 2010 floods UN appealed for $1.9 billion but only $1.3 billion were provided by donors. 11 most generous donors contributed $1.6 billion and the least generous 15 countries contributed only $33 million.
Denmark contributed $23 million but Portugal with bigger GDP contributed nothing. France donated $ 4.2 million, nine times less than Sweden’s donation while having six times larger GDP. According to a report by an aid agency, Islamic Relief, there is a marked difference in donor response compared to Haiti’s earthquake.
In Haiti 3.7 million people were affected and it received $948 per affectee in aid whereas in 2010 floods more than 20 million people were affected in Pakistan but only $122 per affectee was received.
According to an analysis by an international aid agency, Oxfam GB, only $1.30 has been committed per person by international donors in the first 10 days of the UN appeal as compared to $3.20 committed in the same period during last year’s floods. The corresponding figures for 2005 earthquake was $70 and for Haiti’s earthquake was 495$. This trend clearly indicates that donor response does not commensurate with the scale of disaster. Except number of deaths all other accounts of damages in recent floods have been far greater than Haiti’s earthquake.
Delayed appeal by the government, economic slowdown in Euro zone and US, lack of efficiency and transparency on part of government, lukewarm coverage by international media are considered as key reasons for the poor response by humanitarian aid community.
The government underestimated the scale of disaster and the appeal for international aid came too late when millions were already shelterless. Also, major aid contributors, e.g. Europe and US, are reeling under economic meltdown. The US, after losing $US 550 billion in Afghanistan war, is facing worst unemployment in recent decades. Fourteen million unemployed Americans are a major cause of concern.
After losing credit rating one step down, US law makers are bent upon axing international aid. Deep cuts in food and medicine for Africa and disaster relief aid are being seriously contemplated. US foreign assistance has declined from two percent of its federal budget in 70s and 80s to less than one percent in 2011.
The House Appropriation Committee has proposed cutting assistance to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Similarly, major countries in European Union are facing a worst debt crisis. Gross domestic debt in Euro zone is now 85pc of its GDP. Budget deficit in Britain has reached 10.4 percent and in US is 8.9 percent. Unemployment in 16 to 24 years age group in UK has reached 14 percent during the last three years. A 10 percent cut in government spending is already on cards.
In this scenario, international aid is likely to be more sluggish in the event of any future disasters. Countries like Pakistan need to re-appropriate its own resources more prudently to meet contingency needs. With alarming rise in the frequency of disasters, Pakistan needs to contemplate a long-term master plan for disaster risk reduction. A fraction of the huge sums of money required for relief and rehabilitation operations can help making better pre-disaster arrangements.