Pakistan Floods Deserve Better Media Attention

Imagine if Hurricane Katrina struck all the states from Florida to Massachusetts and massive floods washed away homes and businesses, destroyed roads and bridges, and devastated the lives of tens of millions of Americans. How would we react in the immediate aftermath? How quickly would we respond to the urgent need to provide food, water and health care to the victims? How would the media respond? We know the answer. There would be wall-to-wall daily coverage with stories of devastation and emergency response, and a clarion call to Americans with direction on the most effective way to help those in need.

But the American media has paid little attention to a natural disaster of just that magnitude. The slow-moving floods in Pakistan have devastated over 20 million people -- the same number of Americans who live and work in the Florida to Massachusetts corridor. Why are so few newspapers and television networks paying attention to Pakistan when the need is so great?

Where are the stories about the resiliency and needs of the people of Pakistan? Although the flood waters have not completely receded, people have returned to find homes damaged or completely destroyed. Food is scarce. Water-borne diseases abound. Yet people are already rebuilding and attempting to resume their lives.

Where are the stories of hope and effective response? There are thousands of untold stories of recovery and rehabilitation efforts by individuals, community groups, and by government and non-government organizations.

Reporters need to point their cameras in a new direction, and put a sharp focus on recovery and rebuilding and how Americans can help the people of Pakistan. We need to show greater compassion and solidarity with the people of Pakistan at this critical time. The task for Pakistan is monumental; the recovery and rebuilding will take months and years. And they can't do it alone. We need effective reporting so Americans can make an informed, compassionate and effective response.

Former President Bill Clinton called for action and commitment for Pakistan at this year's annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. The Pakistan Action Network is the result. BRAC, the world's largest development organization, is one of the members of that network and has been on the front line delivering emergency relief. BRAC Pakistan has delivered critical supplies of food, water, and basic health care to thousands of victims of the floods. While continuing that effort, BRAC is also responding with job programs to deliver essential home repairs, sanitation programs, and local infrastructure projects in the most devastated areas. With 1,000 staff, BRAC operates a large microfinance program throughout 94 branches in the country and a small health and education program.

Other CGI members are looking to join the Pakistan Action Network to advocate and help raise awareness of the need in Pakistan. Some want to apply the lessons learned in Haiti to Pakistan. If you are a CGI member, please join our next Pakistan Action Network Call.

Let's all advocate for better media coverage of what is really happening in Pakistan and what the people of Pakistan most need. And respond to Pakistanis as if they were the 20 million people from Florida to Massachusetts who needed your help. Please donate now.