Canadian government to match all donations to Pakistan relief

By Mike Barber, Postmedia News

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OTTAWA – In a move that was quickly welcomed by aid groups, the federal government announced Sunday it will match Canadians’ private donations to registered charities to bolster relief efforts in Pakistan, a nation now in the third week of its worst floods in memory.

House leader John Baird told reporters Sunday the government will match all donations made between Aug. 2 and Sept. 12, in addition to $33 million the federal government has already committed to relief efforts.

“For every eligible donation by individual Canadians to Canadian registered charities and earmarked for efforts to assist Pakistan relief efforts, Canada will contribute an equivalent amount to the Pakistan Floods Relief Fund,” said Baird.

Baird said Canada’s contribution to relief efforts places it fifth on the list of international donors.

The latest United Nations estimates suggest the floods have killed nearly 2,000 people, rendered six million Pakistanis homeless, and directly affected more than 22 million citizens. The floods are estimated to have affected a fifth of Pakistan’s total land area.

The Canadian fund, which will be distributed by the Canadian International Development Agency, “will support continuing humanitarian assistance, early recovery and, just as importantly, reconstruction efforts in Pakistan through projects undertaken by many organizations . . . responding to the floods,” said Baird.

Baird explained the six-week window the government was opening to match donations was slightly longer than the four weeks typically allotted for such crises, in part because the Muslim holiday of Ramadan is underway.

The government’s strategy is similar to those employed in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti this past January and the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.

Unlike the rapid response to those other disasters, however, Baird’s announcement came three weeks after flooding began, and only after the full breadth of the catastrophe came into focus.

Baird brushed off suggestions Sunday that Canadians have been slow to react to the disaster, perhaps because of questions about the stability of the government in Pakistan or due to so-called donor fatigue.

Baird said the nature of the flooding made this a different kind of disaster, the full effect of which it’s taken time to gauge.

“Canadians have shown that they’re always ready to help those in need,” he said. “However fast we can reach these people, it’s not fast enough. We will do everything we can humanly possible to get assistance, whether its food, sanitation and other measures.”

John Rafferty, the NDP’s international co-operation and CIDA critic, said he was pleased the government had announced the new fund, because “the people of Canada will have an opportunity to feel as if they’re doubling their contributions, and hopefully contributions will increase because of this.”

But Rafferty questioned why the Conservative response “has come in dribs and drabs” – $2 million was announced in July, then $31 million last week and now the dollar-for-dollar strategy.

He pointed to the fact there’s been no mention of sending the Canadian Forces’ Disaster Assistance Response Team, a fast-deploying unit that specializes in setting up the water-purification systems so often needed in humanitarian crises.

“Because of the travel and the time it takes to set it up, I still feel that maybe should have been the first thing they did,” said Rafferty.

DART was the focus of Canadian relief efforts following the Haitian quake, the tsunami, and in 2005 after a massive earthquake in Pakistan.

A spokeswoman for the Canadian Red Cross said the fund will “help get the message out to Canadians that there is a need out there and hopefully it will generate more donations.”

“I think because the onset of the disaster was slow, we’re note seeing the same level of awareness,” said Pam Aung Thin. “We’re not seeing the same level of media coverage that you (saw) with Haiti.”

Aung Thin said the charity had already raised $6 million in Canada to bolster aid efforts, but she said she expects that to rise with the government putting a spotlight on Pakistan.

World Vision Canada, one of the nation’s largest humanitarian charities, said they welcomed the government’s announcement to match donations.

“The Canadian government has shown significant leadership through this funding commitment and Canadians can give confidently, knowing their donations will have twice the life-saving impact,” said Dave Toycen, the charity’s president, in a statement.

“World Vision believes the decision to match donations has the potential to aid thousands of additional children caught in this tragedy.”

Plan Canada also issued a statement saying they “applaud” the government’s efforts to respond to the catastrophe.

While the initial death toll of the flood has paled in comparison to other recent disasters, such as the Haitian earthquake, fears of water-borne illness, starvation and dehydration, have grown in the intervening weeks.

The World Health Organization said Sunday that about 200,000 Pakistanis were suffering from acute diarrhea, 260,000 have developed skin infections, and another 200,000 developed respiratory illnesses.

More than 200 health facilities throughout Pakistan have also been washed away by the expanding waters of the Indus River, with no sign of abatement. The heavy rain season in Pakistan, which started around July 21 this year, typically lasts until September.

On Sunday, another 200,000 people were forced to flee rising water in the Sindh province of southern Pakistan.

The United Nations had called for $460 million in international aid over the next three months. On Sunday, Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, said donations have totalled more than $815 million so far.

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  1. I’m done.

    I have “tolerance fatigue” & compassion fatigue” when it comes to islamic countries.

    I made a large donation to the tsunami effort only to find out that much of the money has not reached the victims and islam has gained complete control of the area.

    I will not send my hard earned dollars to a deceitful government that takes my money with one hand and “misplaces” it with the other.

    It is a well known fact that muslims only contribute to charities that benefit muslims. They do not help non-muslims. The “Sowdis” don’t even like to help muslims. It’s time they stood up & helped their own people. It’s time to send them a clear message.

    I refuse to be laughed at & ridiculed by muslims for being “stupid enough” to help muslims, anymore.

    So, now, when a travesty occurs in a muslim area , I make a donation to a worthy cause instead. I no longer line the pockets of terrorists.

    I wish my government did the same.

  2. I forgot the most important point.

    Apparently the government of Pakistan is refusing aid to non-muslims. That in itself is enough for me to to refuse to contribute at all, but only one of many good reasons.

    And don’t be deluded into believing the excuse made by some that we must present a good example to muslim community and they will learn by example.

    For them islam & only islam comes first, nothing else. They don’t want to learn anything from us.


  3. Right now it’s the Ahmadji’s whom the majority of muslims consider non-muslim.
    Also there have been instances of forced conversions for food &

    Have a look at these

    As Robert Spencer says, the rest of the non-muslims are probably next.

    • I’m positive they already have been cut off from aid, they just don’t have a voice there to speak up for them…And it’s not like our MSM would cover it, they seem to relish silently over Muslims slaughtering Christians and Jews.

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