A penny for your scorn (Part deux)

Remember when Haiti suffered a terrible plight in January this year, following a calamitous earthquake? When it needed much foreign assistance in cash and kind to fuel its disaster response and recovery?

I wrote about Singapore’s response to that humanitarian disaster…rather disapprovingly. US$50,000 isn’t much to shout about.

Half a year on, Pakistan too fell victim. This time the disaster came from above; torrential rains, leading to destructive flash floods. Initial reports, however, didn’t quite reveal the eventual scale of the problem.

Singapore made its move a week later.

06/08/2010
MFA Press Statement: Singapore’s Humanitarian Assistance to Pakistan

In response to an appeal by the Government of Pakistan, the Singapore Government will contribute US$50,000 to aid relief efforts for the victims of the heavy floods. This contribution will be used by the Singaporean humanitarian organisation Mercy Relief, which has sent a three-member team to Peshawar to undertake relief and assistance work in and around Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

Mercy Relief will distribute tents, food, water filtration units for drinking water and medicines. It will also set up shelters for some of the homeless survivors of the flash floods.

The Singapore Red Cross has donated US$100,000 to the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) to bring humanitarian aid to the victims of the flood.

President S R Nathan earlier conveyed condolences on behalf of the people of Singapore to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

Intriguingly, even the Singapore Red Cross was sufficiently concerned to put up double the amount of aid the government was offering. Perhaps the early reports from Pakistan might not have channeled sufficient sense of urgency and scale, least not enough for Singapore to be moved…much.

That ought to have changed days later, after the United Nations illustrated its concern with the use of stark comparison. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesman Maurizio Giuliano said: “This disaster is worse than the tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and the Haiti earthquake.

Even so, four weeks after the disaster broke, less than half of the UN’s foreign aid target of US$460 million have been raised. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon didn’t mince his words when appealing for more help:

“Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, Pakistan is facing a slow-motion tsunami. Its destructive power can accumulate and grow with time,” he said.

He called the flooding a “global disaster” that was “one of the greatest tests of global solidarity”.

Singapore then upped its aid, perhaps suitably chastened.

19/08/2010
MFA Press Statement: Singapore’s Humanitarian Assistance to Pakistan

The Singapore Government is contributing a second tranche of US$50,000 in humanitarian assistance to Pakistan for relief efforts following the devastating floods. This follows an earlier contribution of US$50,000, and comes in the wake of reports of the massive scale of the disaster.

The additional contribution will be used by Singaporean humanitarian organisation Mercy Relief to restock its supplies of water treatment systems, food and medicines for the flood victims. The first Mercy Relief aid relief team has returned from Pakistan, and a second team will leave for Pakistan within the next two weeks.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has deployed two officers under the auspices of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to help on-site teams in Pakistan to assess the needs of flood victims and coordinate relief activities.

The grand old lady of Singapore press tried its best to put a positive spin, exclaiming “Singapore Doubles Aid“. How very generous indeed.

But surely not as charitable as troubled Afghanistan, which offered its neighbour US$1 million and an admission that “this aid amount is far less than what is really needed by the flood victims”.

Certainly nowhere close to the Singapore government’s generosity with its two-week, multimillion-dollar celebration of Singaporean modernity. Yes, that S$387 million (US$285 million) extravaganza that was only supposed to cost US$75.5 million, which received the additional US$210 million in funding without so much as a batted eyelid (or public consultation).

Yes, that sporting fiesta – the Youth Olympic Games – that has captured the imagination fascination sycophantic adulation of the Straits Times.

Sadly the ST is somewhat caught up with merry flag waving and hasn’t the temerity to get Chua Mui Hoong to do a redux, thus denying us the joy of witnessing the MFA re-employ its celebrated ‘Sudesh Maniar’ riposte – a guilt-free trip to the moral highground. This time, perhaps, he could emphasise the saving grace (of a very perverse order) that many other countries also haven’t been very forthcoming with funds.

But maybe I’ve missed a trick here. This YOG gig is about our little red dot standing tall amongst the big boys, isn’t it? I see it now. So we’ve got to stay with the major league consensus; if the big-timers aren’t hitting home runs, why should we?

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~ by spiegel2071 on August 20, 2010.

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