News and analysis
August 18, 2010

Charities Sound Alarm Over High Level of Need in Pakistan and Few Donations to Meet It

Mercy Corps

Aid groups are having a difficult time raising money to help flood victims in Pakistan, despite warnings that the humanitarian situation there is worsening.

Eleven U.S. charities surveyed by The Chronicle have received nearly $5-million for the floods, which began three weeks ago. However, some nonprofit groups say donations are picking up a bit as the scale of the crisis becomes better understood.

“The immediate response was slow, but increasing media attention has brought more donations in the past few days,” said Maura Hart, a spokeswoman for Oxfam America, in an e-mail message. Her organization has raised $326,000 so far.

Meanwhile, the philanthropist George Soros’s Open Society Foundations announced that the institution would commit an additional $5-million to help flood victims, after giving an initial $50,000 to Brac Pakistan.

Still, aid groups say the amount that’s been given by private donors and governments is not even enough to cover the first three months of the disaster. Church World Service warned in a press release that Pakistan’s “already weak social services may crumble without adequate and immediate help now.”

Death-Toll 'Barometer’

Donations for flood relief are tiny compared with the amounts contributed after other disasters.

In the two-and-a-half weeks following January’s earthquake in Haiti, 39 aid groups raised a total of $560-million. And in the first six weeks after a 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, Americans contributed $30-million to 15 aid groups.

Randy Strash, strategy director for emergency response at World Vision, said his group typically receives less money after floods, like ones in Mexico, Brazil, and Niger, than after earthquakes. World Vision’s U.S. office raised a total of $9-million after the 2005 Pakistan earthquake; so far, it has received $139,000 online for the floods in that country.

Mr. Strash also said that donors tend to focus more on how many people have died rather than how many people are in need of aid. The United Nations has estimated that 20 million flood victims may need help; an estimated 1,600 have died.

The death toll, said Mr. Strash, “represents for many their barometer of how bad a disaster is.”

Among the fund-raising results:

The American Red Cross has received $670,000 and plans to spend at least $1-million.

Brother’s Brother Foundation has not been actively fund raising for Pakistan. However, donors have contributed $1,380, which the group may use to deliver medicine to Life for Relief and Development, a group it works with that runs programs in Pakistan.

Catholic Relief Services has brought in $538,000.

Church World Service’s U.S. office has raised $263,650.

International Relief & Development has raised $69,670 in cash and $2.27-million in products.

The International Rescue Committee has received $1.17-million. Roughly $1.1-million came from foundations and corporations, $118,594 was contributed online by individual donors, and $741 was received through the mail from individuals.

Mercy Corps has raised $300,000.

Oxfam America has raised $326,000.

Save the Children has raised $246,000 from U.S. donors.

U.S. Fund for Unicef has received $1.22-million.

World Vision has raised $139,000 online from U.S. donors.

* This version corrects the figure for International Rescue Committee, which had earlier said $1.7-million.