Donations in Germany frighteningly low as Pakistan relief grows critical | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 13.08.2010
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Donations in Germany frighteningly low as Pakistan relief grows critical

With 6 million lives on the line in Pakistan, German relief organizations are struggling to find private donations. They say donors are less generous in summer and that many Germans fear their donations will go astray.

A crowd reaches upward to catch relief supplies

Germans donors may not be aware how dire the need is

German relief organizations are struggling to collect private donations amid an increasingly desperate situation in flood-stricken Pakistan. The organizations believe Germany's negative view of Pakistan - and poor timing - to be responsible for the giving shortage.

The German government announced Wednesday it had doubled its emergency relief pledge to 10 million euros ($12.8 million) in view of a United Nations appeal for $460 million to provide aid to 6 million flood victims.

Yet, private donations to charitable organizations in Germany remain frighteningly low - despite an announcement by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that Pakistan’s flood disaster had eclipsed the scale of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan and the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti put together.

So far, German relief alliances Deutschland Hilft and Entwicklung Hilft say they have collected a total of 620,000 euros for Pakistan - compared to 20.1 million euros two weeks after the Haiti earthquake disaster.

Donors worry funds will fall into the wrong hands

Sandra Bulling of CARE Deutschland-Luxemburg told Deutsche Welle that Pakistan's reputation for corruption and supporting Islamist terrorists scared many potential donors.

Pakistani flood affected women show their national identity cards to receive relief food on the outskirts of Peshawar

Relief supplies are running out

"We have received calls from private donors who asked us if the money they donate will reach the people in need and won't go to the government. What they hear in the media is that the Pakistani government might be corrupt, that money will vanish down government channels," Bulling said.

"You hear a lot of bad news about Pakistan, you hear about the Taliban, you hear about corruption, but when you look at the people in need, it doesn't matter for them, because it's people who are affected and need help," she said. "We can only confirm to donors that the money they give us goes directly to our beneficiaries and to the people in need."

The wrong time for a catastrophe

CARE and other aid organizations believe the lack of donations to Pakistan also has to do with the timing of the disaster. Bulling says donors are most generous around Christmas, which partly explains why private donations for Haiti were so high.

Not only are many Germans now away on summer holiday - away from the media and their bank accounts - but many are afflicted by "donor fatigue," according to Svenja Koch of the Red Cross.

"We've had a summer of catastrophes. From the oil-soaked pelicans in the Gulf of Mexico to the Love Parade tragedy to the floods in Saxony to the wildfires in Russia," Koch said.

Pakistani villagers flee their homes due to heavy flooding in central Pakistan

The floods have displaced an estimated 13 million people

6 million need relief to survive

The UN has warned that the disaster is far from over and that dams in the southern Sindh province could burst in coming days, leading to further flooding.

So far, Islamabad has confirmed 1,343 deaths, with over 1,000 in the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province alone. The UN estimates a death toll of over 1,600.

Pakistan says that between 15 and 20 million residents have been affected by the floods. The UN estimates that 6 million people will be dependent on relief aid for survival, many of whom have been cut off by flooded roads and collapsed bridges

According to Oxfam Germany chief Ralf Bendix, the relatively low number of causalities in Pakistan can be dangerously misleading to potential donors given the precarious position of millions of survivors.

"In the other disasters one hundred thousand died immediately. Obviously it's easier to mobilize the attention of the public and the government when there's a high number of casualities than it is when you tell them there will be many more deaths if nothing is done," he said.

Pakistan slowly moving to action

Flood water covers the land as far as the eye can see, around Taunsa near Multan, Pakistan

Many regions are inaccessible to aid workers

The Pakistani government Friday announced plans to intensify its own rescue and aid efforts for flood victims.

After visiting affected regions, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said "the extent of total damage to life, property, cattle head and infrastructure may be far more than what the initial estimates suggested."

The premier and President Asif Ali Zardari - who has come under massive criticism for making two European trips during the disaster - agreed that "a massive mobilization of resources including budgetary re-prioritization may be required," according to a statement from the presidential palace.

Author: David Levitz
Editor: Ben Knight

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