Monday, August 16, 2010


Every day there are smallish articles in the newspapers about Pakistan's floods. I can't imagine why it isn't more of a big deal.

The government in Pakistan is not strong, and its president was out of the country and seemingly indifferent to the floods when they first occurred. Pakistan is part of the fighting in Afghanistan, with the extremely difficult terrain in its northwest provinces open to Taliban fighters from Afghanistan. It is something of an ally to the United States, although some of its government also seems to be something of an ally to the Taliban.

The first case of cholera has been identified, and there will be more.

The United States has repurposed some of its military helicopters from Afghanistan to flood aid in Pakistan, although I can't find a report with today's dateline.

Eric Martin makes a good case for more aid from the US. But it's an uphill slog against an American public that sees aid as ten percent of the budget when it's actually far less than one percent. And we currently have a Republican Party that sees its future in whipping up xenophobia and isolationism. Um, except when they can promote wars.

Pakistan's floods are an enormous disaster. Here are some statistics. I've added comparisons to the United States to give some context.

At least 1,294 persons confirmed dead and 1,366 injured.

A total of 415,862 houses destroyed or partially damaged.

Total area of land affected: 2,698,041 acres of which 2,250,409 had standing crops. In a country of 796,095 sq km, that's 1.3% and 1.1% of the land area. (Numbers not in the Eurasia Review article are from the CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia land area and population.) Pakistan's arable land is 24.4% of its total, so that's 4.5% of its arable land affected.

Other reports are of as many as 20 million people displaced. That's 11.3% of the population.

Translating that to the equivalent in the United States, it's 127,747 square kilometers affected, about the size of the entire state of Louisiana, not just the New Orleans area. It's about 35 million people, or the population of the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri, and Illinois. Or we might just consider that it would be all the land for miles on either side of the Mississippi River, but with much denser population than that land actually has.

More needs to be done for Pakistan. Now. We can't afford not to.


Stephen said...

UNICEF is one of the many organizations on the ground accepting donations -

Amy said...

Unfortunately people in America just see it as "another world tragedy." Sadly it has a huge impact on Pakistan's people and government-which yes in the scheme of things seems small-to Americans,but every government and people in the end make up the world not just Americans!!

MT said...

Do they have the means to air-lift and know where to deliver any more supplies than have already been donated, or could they acquire such means and knowledge more quickly with any more money? Hasn't seemed so to me alas. I think it's extremely fortunate we are all set up to work in that neighborhood with bazillions of aircraft and surveillance capabilities and would be appalled if we did not turn an impressive share of it to helping Pakistanis in the flood areas, but whether we do and the extent that we ought is just the kind of thing we'll ever learn or be able to assess in a timely fashion. NPR this morning said we'd sent some helicopters.