Calls go out for aid to Pakistan

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Norway’s government more than tripled its aid for flood victims in Pakistan this week, but donations from individual Norwegians, including those of Pakistani descent, have been slow in coming. Now the aid organizations are on the offensive.

The Norwegian Red Cross has brought in NOK 1.5 million, but joins other organizations in claiming that much more is needed. PHOTO: Norges Røde Kors

“This is one of the worst catastrophes the world has seen, given the number of people affected,” Rolf Vestvik of aid group Flyktninghjelpen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Around 14 million need help, he said, “many more than those hit by the tsunami in 2004 or the earthquake in Haiti last winter.”

But while floodwaters continue to wipe out Pakistani homes and sources of livelihood, Norwegians aren’t exhibiting their normal eagerness to give.

“We know that generally, donor enthusiasm is high among Norwegians,” Vestvik told NRK. “But in this catastrophe, we haven’t received the donations we had expected.”

Nor have other aid organizations, like CARE Norway. “There are a lot of people who need help,” said CARE’s secretary general in Norway, Marte Gerhardsen, “but nowhere near the amount of money we need has come in.”

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Norwegians aren’t alone in being slow to open their wallets. Gerhardsen said that CARE has only received around NOK 5 million (less than USD 1 million) worldwide, compared to the more than NOK 330 million that poured in to help quake victims in Haiti.

Vestvik speculated that perhaps the aid organizations haven’t sent out enough calls for help. Some groups like Redd Barna (Save the Children) and Kirkens Nødhjelp (Norwegian Church Aid) have just launched their fund-raising efforts.

Others have speculated that donors believe the areas hardest hit are under the control of the Taliban, and they don’t want their donations to fall into Taliban hands. Some Pakistani-Norwegians, meanwhile, told newspaper Aftenposten earlier this month that they also fear their money would be misused or that they had no family in the areas hard hit and felt no strong obligation to help.

The Norwegian government, meanwhile, has boosted aid from NOK 30 million to NOK 100 million and the Norwegian Red Cross reports stronger donations. Local Red Cross President Sven Mollekleiv said he was satisfied with the NOK 1.5 million that’s come in so far, including funds from a concert held in Oslo that featured Eurovision stars Alexander Rybak and Didrik Solli Tangen.

“We’re seeing that both the Pakistani community in Norway and the general population and companies are beginning to respond,” Mollekleiv told NRK. “We’re glad that Norwegians are once again seeing that people need our support.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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