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Pakistan's historic flood and Canada's paltry aid
Feds are matching private donations of up to $3 million and giving $30 million in other assistance. But is it enough?
Over the past few months, Pakistan has been devastated by floods that have submerged one-third of the country, killed around 1,400 people — including hundreds of children — and displaced millions.
Pakistani journalist Nadir Hussain Chandio reported to Al Jazeera from a school in Mehar, a city in the southeastern Sindh province, where he sought shelter with his family and neighbours from the nearby village, Syedpur:
[The] situation here is very bad. Even though we are in city, we do not have food or rations. Thankfully, we have some shelter under the building, but many of our family members are still stuck in the village as roads are damaged or submerged in water. They need help.
Unprecedented monsoon rains in June — three times greater than the average monsoon season — and melting glaciers caused by climate change produced catastrophic flooding in a country that contributes just half a percentage point to global CO2 emissions.
The Pakistani government says the country has suffered $30 billion in losses from the flooding, triple its initial estimate.
On Tuesday, the Canadian government announced it will match donations of up to $3 million for Pakistani aid relief until Sept. 28, in addition to contributing $25 million for development projects and $5 million in previously-announced flood aid. By contrast, Canada has contributed $650 million in military aid to Ukraine to stave off Russia’s invasion.
The donations to Pakistan must go through one of the aid groups under the Humanitarian Coalition’s umbrella, which include Action Against Hunger, Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Canadian Lutheran World Relief, CARE Canada, Doctors of the World, Islamic Relief Canada, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam-Québec and Save the Children Canada.
Humanitarian Coalition executive director Richard Morgan told me that media coverage of the floods “has been eclipsed in recent days and weeks by other things that are in the Canadian media landscape,” including the Queen’s death, the federal Conservative leadership race, the Quebec election and kids returning to school.
He outlined how the flooding has exacerbated the impact of various global crises on Pakistan:
You've got to worry about everything from COVID to dengue to malaria to cholera. With all the crops underwater, you also have to worry about the inflationary impact and what it's going to do for people's access to food, as well as the straight production that would have been lost from those areas … I mean, Canadians are aware of the increase in cost of food, so you can imagine how greatly it will be increased in a context like Pakistan. And then of course, people have lost their livelihoods as a result of losing homes. Many entire communities were wiped out.
Topographically speaking, the amount of land under water in Pakistan is equivalent to half of Alberta, and the 33 million people who are estimated to be impacted by the flooding is essentially the equivalent of Canada’s population, Morgan said, highlighting the scale of the disaster.
The death toll of 1,400 is undoubtedly tragic and “each one of those lives is precious,” Morgan said, but a disaster of this scale could have been much more deadly. The Pakistani government’s response demonstrates progress from the 2010 floods in the country, which covered less territory but killed almost 2,000 people, he said.
Washington Post columnist Hamid Mir disagrees, arguing “Pakistan apparently learned no lessons from the 2010 floods.”
“Deforestation was a major cause of those floods, and it has played a similar role again in the floods of 2022,” Mir wrote in a Sept. 13 column.
Morgan said he’s thankful for the Canadian government and private citizens “stepping up” to assist the relief effort, but as the climate crisis worsens there will be need for a much longer term commitment for disaster mitigation, “so we can try and get ahead of these things rather than reacting to them.”
“The vast majority of crises in the world are grossly underfunded,” he said.
Those looking to donate can do so at www.together.ca, or through any one of the organizations that make up the Humanitarian Coalition.
Pierre Poilievre would be a disaster for Canada’s climate commitments
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has no climate plan, I write in Ricochet, but he has advocated for many policies that will undoubtedly exacerbate climate change — more pipelines, urban sprawl and getting rid of carbon pricing.
Poilievre’s position on climate has been consistent since he was elected to Parliament at the ripe age of 24 — owning the Libs for their very real failures to reach their climate targets while offering no coherent alternative of his own to reach those targets.
University of British Columbia political scientist Kathryn Harrison said that while former Tory leader Erin O’Toole made an effort to at least pay lip service to climate conscious voters with a weak climate plan, Poilievre appears to have no such ambition:
He is appealing to a populist base that is further right-of-centre than conservative voters at large. But in so doing, he is putting himself on the record on a variety of policy proposals. And it seems clear that he's not trying for climate concerned voters. He's assuming either he's not going to win those voters or he can win them over with other measures.
Read the full story here.
In other news …
The federal government plans to table legislation when Parliament reconvenes to address affordability issues, which has three components: the first phase of a means-tested dental care plan, a small increase to the housing benefit for renters and doubling the federal GST rebate.
Quebec MP Alain Rayes (Richmond–Arthabaska) has announced his decision to leave the Conservative Party and sit as an independent after Poilievre’s landslide leadership victory.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham has put forward legislation to ban abortion after 15 weeks nationwide, with exceptions for rape, incest or risks to the life or physical health of the mother.
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The A/V Corner
Watch: Former Greek finance minister and economist Yanis Varoufakis talks to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! about the European energy crisis, Russia’s war on Ukraine and the Queen’s death.
Listen: My friends in Penhorn Summer have released a new album, featuring songs about doubling Nova Scotia’s population, firing up the grill and much more.
Edited by Scott Schmidt