Even as I type, the situation continues to worsen. The daily headlines continue to reflect a myriad of disasters all over the world but the numbers affected in Pakistan’s flood continue their horrific climb. A fairly recent CNA report cites UN figures reporting that six million currently need direct humanitarian assistance to survive.
Although one can blame the magnitude of the natural disaster itself, often it is the condition on the ground beforehand that often plays a much larger role in determining the eventual extent of the damage. One key reason why poverty is so dangerous is because it leaves people extremely vulnerable to adverse conditions, whether man-made or natural.
Back to Pakistan.
- How is it its people were so unprepared? This site gives a brief overview of the various causes that have lead to the rampant poverty in the country. People are not just ‘poor’ by chance. A whole host of socio-political, economic, cultural and historical factors all play a role in persisting social inequalities today. In the case of Pakistan, it seems poor governance was major determinant among other economic and social factors (ADB report).
- How did the flood affect them disproportionately? This blog entry from the ‘Poverty News Blog’ gives an insightful firsthand account of the suffering and damage on the ground. An excerpt:
We have done assessments in three of the worst-hit areas, starting with Charsadda district in KPK. Rivers have burst out of their banks and completely destroying everything around, including homes, standing crops of sugar cane, maize, and vegetables. Between 85 percent and 90 percent of houses were damaged by the floods.
In KPK alone death toll stands at 800, with more than 800 injured and 155,293 houses damaged. In Charsadda 34,657 houses have been damaged. Made of mud, these structures simply quickly dissolved and collapsed, forcing inhabitants to flee without any of their possessions.
Can you think of other instances where poverty has caused certain populations to be disproportionately affected by natural disasters?
Do you think the local governments and international community are doing enough to prevent such catastrophes from reoccurring?
What about in Singapore? Are the poor in our nation particularly vulnerable to sudden adverse conditions?