By: Anita Cheng
The Haiti Earthquake and the Chilean miners rescue were two of the top stories that plastered the media during the year 2010. However, the victims of the Pakistan floods that broke out in the fall of 2010 suffered under the shadows of other humanitarian emergencies. Due to the worst monsoon rains in eighty years, one-fifth of the nation was at one point underwater, a total of twenty million individuals were affected and the death toll rose to close to two thousand. When the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon visited the tragedy-struck nation, he expressed: “So many people, in so many places, in so much need.” When I came across this article and hauntingly beautiful photograph, I couldn’t help but think about the six dimensions of well-being (as defined by Powers and Faden) that have been discussed in class this past week.
Once I examined each dimension of well-being and related them to the current state of the flood victims in Pakistan, I realized that these individuals have been deprived of either some or all of each dimension – health, personal security, attachment, reasoning, respect, and self-determination. For the most visible aspect of health, this crisis places the area at risk for outbreaks of diarrhea, water-borne illnesses, cholera, and malaria. In addition, the lost of homes, loved ones, and community depletes the flood victims of a sense of personal security and attachment. Along with the loss of infrastructure is a loss of facilities to educate individuals and promote the pursuit of reasoning skills. Most importantly, I would like to highlight how this tragedy has stripped the people of Pakistan of respect and self-determination. To purport this claim, let us compare the amount of aid and attention Pakistan has received with that of Haiti. While $900 million were pledged by the American people to the people of Haiti within five weeks of the earthquake that took 200,000 lives, only $25 million have been donated to flood relief in Pakistan. News coverage of the Haiti tragedy was ten times greater than that of the Pakistan floods. Although the Pakistan floods tragedy is indeed an unfortunate event, the overwhelming difference in global attention given to the situation compared to other humanitarian emergencies transforms the issue into a social injustice. It is evident that the media plays a vital role in determining the amount of aid a country receives in response to crises like this. Because the media has essentially glazed over the flooding in Pakistan, the victims have not been given the recognition respect of every human being deserves. Consequently, the absence of aid has severely restricted these individuals to be fully self-determinant (inability to recover from unemployment, lost crops, etc.).
A factor that complicates the issue of a lack of giving in Pakistan is politics. Even before the flood struck, infrastructure in this nation has been strained due to the government’s struggle with the balancing act between controlling Taliban violence and recovering from an economic crisis. Because of this brittle structure, many are unwilling to give due to rampant corruption and belief that none of the donations would reach the people in need. In addition, accusations of Pakistan’s heavy funding for its nuclear program have led people to deem the country undeserving of foreign aid. Analysts of this issue have even used the recent controversy in New York City regarding building an Islamic Cultural Center near Ground Zero to explain why Americans are now more hesitant about giving to a Muslim-majority nation. According to Catholic Social Teaching, shouldn’t we remove ourselves from these personal or even national interests and be in solidarity with the people of Pakistan? Why should our opinion of the Pakistan government influence our decision of whether or not to help its suffering people? As public health students, what is our role in educating the general public about the consequences of neglecting these victims, such as jeopardizing the personal security of the global community if terrorist groups are able to take advantage of the situation? How can we restore, preserve, and promote the well-being of the people of Pakistan?