News and analysis
September 02, 2010

Weak Giving Impedes Relief Efforts in Pakistan

American charities say they haven’t raised nearly what they need to help Pakistan’s flood victims.

Aid workers report that they are being forced to decide which assistance programs are most urgent, scale back plans to serve more people, and close clinics ahead of schedule because they lack sufficient cash.

Long-term programs to rebuild infrastructure and get Pakistan’s people back to work will be smaller than after other disasters unless more money arrives, aid workers say.

“It’s a fraction of what we need,” said Farshad Rastegar, chief executive of Relief International, in Los Angeles, of the $250,000 his organization has received so far. “We have three health clinics operating there, and there has been a flurry of e-mails saying we need to keep these open for another two months, and we’re just saying, we don’t have the money, we just can’t do it.”

Thirty-two U.S. aid groups polled by The Chronicle had raised $25-million in the roughly five weeks after the flooding began.

By contrast, five weeks after the Haiti earthquake, 48 groups had brought in a total of $774-million.

Nonprofit officials blame a variety of factors for the slow response from donors, including a lack of news-media attention and the fact that Pakistan is so far away from the United States geographically. In addition, they note that many Americans distrust the government there.

The relatively small death toll from the disaster thus far (an estimated 1,500) disguises the fact that more people—some 20 million—require aid than after the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, the Haiti earthquake, and the South Asian tsunamis combined, relief officials say.

For many charities, even the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan elicited more donations.

Relief International raised eight times as much for that emergency as it has received so far, or $2-million. World Vision raised about $8-million from American donors; so far, the Federal Way, Wash., group has received $1-million for the floods.

World Vision’s international affiliates have set a goal of $20-million from private and government donors but have raised about $11.3-million so far.

Similarly, Save the Children, in Westport, Conn., has set a worldwide goal of $55-million and has so far brought in $20-million in government and private giving.

While the U.S. government has contributed the most generously of any nation, Americans are giving less than people in Britain and other countries, aid officials say.

American groups that have collected the most money from private donors include Islamic Relief USA ($5-million), the American Red Cross ($2.9-million), the U.S. Fund for Unicef ($3.5-million), CARE ($2-million) and the International Rescue Committee ($2-million).

Reassuring Donors

Nonprofit officials are hopeful that foundations and corporations may provide donations during the reconstruction phase, although they worry that many of those donors who are likely to give already have done so.

Charities are also trying to encourage more giving by reassuring individual donors that their gifts will be used effectively.

“We are spending a lot of time talking about how long Save the Children has worked there, how effective the programs we’ve been doing for almost 30 years are,” says Carolyn Miles, the group’s chief operating officer.

As fund raisers struggle with how to spur more gifts, aid workers in Pakistan are trying to respond to the humanitarian needs with few resources at their disposal.

The floods have cut off access to many people, so aid workers are relying on donkeys, boats, and helicopters, when they can get access to them, to ferry supplies to flood victims, says Ms. Miles.

Outbreaks of diarrhea, which can be deadly for children especially, are occurring. Aid workers are also warning about cholera and other illnesses.

And while aid officials must make tough choices now about what sorts of health care and other assistance they can afford to offer, they warn that the shortfall in money will be more apparent when it comes to rebuilding the devastated areas and helping people return to their normal lives.

Says Jeremy Barnicle, vice president for marketing and communications with Mercy Corps: “Where you’ll feel the pain is that long-term recovery phase.”

Here is a complete list of fund-raising results:

  • ActionAid has raised $18,459 from U.S. donors, and $2.3-million worldwide.
  • Adventist Development and Relief Agency has raised $34,720
  • American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has raised $134,000.
  • American Jewish World Service has raised $260,000.
  • American Red Cross has raised $2.9-million.
  • AmeriCares has brought in $419,000.
  • Barakat has raised $7,235 in the United States and $15,640 worldwide.
  • Brother’s Brother Foundation is not actively raising money, but it has received $3,010 from donors.
  • CARE has raised $2-million.
  • Catholic Relief Services has raised $1.18-million.
  • Church World Service has received more than $378,000.
  • Concern Worldwide US has raised $50,000.
  • CHF International has raised $105,869.
  • Direct Relief International has raised $127,000.
  • Doctors Without Borders USA has raised $1.2-million.
  • Give2Asia has received $131,000.
  • International Medical Corps has raised $270,000.
  • International Relief and Development has raised $69,670.
  • International Rescue Committee has raised $2-million.
  • Islamic Relief USA has raised $5-million.
  • Life for Relief and Development has received $160,000.
  • Lions Clubs International Federation has received more than $89,000.
  • Mercy Corps has received $1.5-million.
  • Merlin has received $14,591 from U.S. donors and $942,475 worldwide.
  • Operation USA has raised $4,000.
  • Oxfam America has raised $1.38-million.
  • Relief International has raised $250,000.
  • Salvation Army has raised $34,379.
  • Save the Children has raised more than $1-million.
  • Unitarian Universalist Service Committee has raised $50,437.
  • U.S. Fund for Unicef has raised $3.49-million.
  • World Food Program USA has raised $610,974.
  • World Vision has raised $1.027-million.

Nicole Wallace contributed to this article.