Oxfam emailed me this week asking for money because the floods in Pakistan are apparently phenomenally bad, and there are literally millions of people affected. To make matters worse, there are so many people currently living in temporary accommodation, with insufficient food or clean water, that disease-borne infections are spreading. The real difficulty is that what aid is coming is not enough – and it’s arriving very slowly, which gives disease even more time to spread. This is definitely the sort of thing you want to get onto early, which hasn’t happened (and, let’s face it – I, for one have been far too absorbed with the election to pay attention to any other news).
Anyway, I’ve now donated via Oxfam Australia (link is here, if you are interested).
I’ve also been a bit cheeky and have emailed both Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard asking them for bipartisan action to assist the people of Pakistan. After all (though I did not say this in my email), I imagine they won’t be doing much actual governing this week, so they might as well do something productive with their time…
Besides, maybe it will win them votes. And even if it doesn’t, it’s the right thing to do.
To be honest, I’m kind of embarrassed about even bothering (especially since I don’t really know what I’m talking about) and very much doubt my email will have any use or effect. It’s most likely that Gillard and Abbott are both wrapped up in the whole election mess right now, with no attention to spare for anything else. It’s also probable that they both know all about Pakistan already and it isn’t all that high on the priority list. But there is the very faint hope that one of their advisors will in fact read the email at the right moment and think that actually, foreign aid for a major crisis is a reasonably non-controversial issue and one that might make them look good. Or that one or both of them will think, you know, we really *should* do something to help here, regardless of politics (why yes, I am an optimist). So perhaps it was worth writing something after all.
And, actually, maybe we should all be writing to our politicians about Pakistan. It’s not a troublemaking issue like an Emissions Trading Scheme or Asylum Seekers (though one really good way to prevent Asylum Seekers coming to Australia is surely to make their countries of origin safer). It’s far enough away not to be seen as a vote-buying exercise. And humanitarian aid is surely something we all agree on. I think it’s an excellent project for a government that is effectively in recess for the next week or two…
Anyway, here’s what I wrote:
Dear Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott,
I hesitate to email you, since you are probably the two busiest and most stressed out people in Australia right now, but with the government in caretaker mode, I understand that any action taken by Parliament would need to be supported by both parties. Since I’m fairly sure (or at least profoundly hope!) that humanitarian aid to countries that are in deep distress is something that both major parties – and indeed, the vast majority of Australians – would support, I’d like to draw the situation in Pakistan to your attention.
As I’m sure you know, Pakistan is undergoing massive floods, and the rain just isn’t stopping. According to Oxfam Australia, an estimated 20 million people have been affected – more than the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Kashmir earthquake and the Haiti earthquake combined. The threat of disease is high; nearly 900,000 homes have been destroyed, hundreds of thousands have been evacuated, and with so many people now living in makeshift accommodation, water-borne diseases are spreading fast. In these circumstances, it is difficult, if not impossible, to prevent infection. Many Pakistanis are already suffering from acute malnutrition, and are thus at even greater risk of infection.
Some aid has reached Pakistan, but not very much, and it is arriving very slowly – and as you can imagine, it’s much easier to prevent an epidemic than stop one. It may already be too late to do so, though I hope not.
I am asking, therefore, that you or your representatives set aside some time this week to consider in a bipartisan manner what humanitarian aid Australia can give to Pakistan right now. From all I can gather, the more aid we can give now, the less aid Pakistan will need in the long run, and the better chance it will have to get back on its feet.
Wishing you both the best of health during this difficult period.