With billions of dollars needed in aid in the aftermath of the recent floods, there is a need for a transparent strategy to guide donors and keep track of donations
et’s stop sleepwalking towards the destruction of our planet by climate change. Today, it is Pakistan. Tomorrow, it could be your country.” The UN Secretary-General António Guterres cautioned the world in a statement, moments after Pakistan and the UN launched the UN Flash Appeal 2022.
The aid appeal was launched on August 30 from the Foreign Office in Islamabad and the UN Office in Geneva. It aims to collect $160 million.
Till August 31, the appeal by the UN secretary-general had attracted 397 quote retweets. Only one Pakistani parliamentarian, Senator Sahar Kamran, was among the people who retweeted it.
At the time of this appeal, the Foreign Office online portal was expected to be the first stop for donors to understand the situation – what has happened; what is required; who has contributed what; and how much more is needed. Digital interactive charts guiding donors and updating them would have been beneficial at such a time.
An analysis of the Foreign Office online portals shows that donors risk getting lost in the selective pledges of aid uploaded, compounding the confusion about the situation on ground.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the then government had managed to devise a communication strategy. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) Humanitarian Advisory Team (HAT) has prepared maps and provided relevant data in an easily accessible and comprehensible manner. It indicates that the country has received 2.87 times more rains this year than the last 30 years’ average, causing floods that have inundated 2 million acres of crops, destroyed 218,000 houses and killed 937 people in 116 districts in four provinces.
However, the data accounted for losses till August 26. After the launch of the appeal, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told the BBC that so far 1,500 people, a third of them children, had died. He also said that over 33 million people were reeling from the impact of the floods. Since millions of people have been rendered homeless, camps and tents are needed the most, he said.
Bhutto Zardari further said that Pakistan’s contribution in the production of harmful greenhouse gases is less than one percent but it is among the 10 countries most affected by climate change. Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal has reiterated the same.
According to the OCHA, the government has set aside Rs 35 billion or $173 million for those affected by the floods under the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).
The US announced a rescue aid – initially $100,000 and then $30 million. “With these funds, the USAID partners will prioritise urgently needed support for food, nutrition, multi-purpose cash, safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene, and shelter assistance,” reads a USAID statement.
Harjit S Sajjan, Canada’s minister of international development and the minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada, has announced a $5 million humanitarian assistance for Pakistan. Till Wednesday evening, the grant had not been mentioned on the FO portal.
Quoting the OCHA figures, a Canadian official statement mentions that: “On August 19, Canada contributed to the initial funding of $3 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, which will be used for health, nutrition, food security and water and sanitation services in flood-affected areas.” This amount will be spent mostly by organisations working with the Canadian government.
Kjell-Gunnar Erikson, the outgoing Norwegian ambassador to Pakistan, has tweeted that the Scandinavian nation will contribute $2.25 million for flood relief. This amount will be channelled through the UN, Red Cross/ Red Crescent and Kirkens Nødhjelp, a Norway-based organisation.
The European Union (EU) has announced 2.15 million euro for relief activities with a pledge to work in coordination with the government and other partners.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Turkey continue to deliver planeloads of relief items. Qatar and Azerbaijan have announced $2 million each in aid.
China has announced $300,000 in “emergency cash assistance” in addition to planeloads of relief material such as tents and food. Germany has agreed to supply food and relief goods to 60,000 people.
Though a confirmed account of the funds released so far has not been made public, media reports indicate that so far $130 million have been collected in response to the appeal.
In his message, the UN secretary-general said that Pakistan has received “rains on steroids” pointing towards the adverse climate change impacts unleashed in the country.
Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman has issued statements on the situation.
Meanwhile, some members of the former ruling party have been active on social media to stop donations from being made to the government fund and levelling allegations of corruption against the incumbent government.
International donors have mechanisms in place to monitor the utilisation of donations through the organisations that fit their criteria. In most cases, they prefer their own organisations or various UN agencies.
Adopting an effective communication strategy on digital platforms not only helps potential donors but can also help counter attempts at misleading them through politically motivated adverse propaganda.
The writer teaches development support communication at the International Islamic University Islamabad. He tweets @HassanShehzadZ and can be reached at Hassan.email@example.com