Humanitarian Crisis in Pakistan

As you probably heard, this week was the five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding in New Orleans. Maybe you’ve also heard a little about the flooding in Pakistan that started in early August. Have you? I asked my class today if they’d heard about what was going on in Pakistan and around a quarter of them raised their hands. I asked them what they’d heard, and a few said, “Flooding, right?”

I said, “Right.” I asked them if they knew of the extent, and they pretty much shook their heads no.

Did you know that as of two weeks ago, 20 million people in Pakistan had been displaced and needed food, shelter, and medical attention?

That’s not a typo. Here’s a link to the U.N. General Secretary’s plea for help. As he writes, more people have been affected by these floods than by the 2004 Tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, and Haiti combined. You could throw Katrina in there, too, I think without going over the number affected by the floods that are happening right now.

Looking for something to talk about in your class? Compare Katrina anniversary awareness with knowledge of the floods in Pakistan and ask for some theories about the different reactions in the media, in America, in the school, in the world.  Talk about how it is possible for the society with the easiest and best access to the most readily available and largest amount of information in human history to be generally unaware of the plight of 20 million people.

Here’s a link to an article that raises and considers various possibilities. That would, at least, be a start. I’m sure we can do more, though.

One thought on “Humanitarian Crisis in Pakistan

  1. Awful news. Good point about introducing it as a topic of discussion in the classroom. Ya gots me a thinkin’.

    Here’s my theory, and maybe it’s a conspiracy theory, you tell me:
    From the article, “But in this case, the humanity of Pakistan’s victims takes a backseat to the preconceived image that Westerners have of Pakistan as a country.”
    That preconceived image is constructed by mass media. Unfortunately, we as westerners, watch out, big generalization coming, depend heavily on the media to tell us what is the big story of the day. Day in, day out. Again, a generalization. There are exceptions to the rule. You are the exception along with others that seek other sources of information to construct your world. Key word: seek. You decide for yourself what is important. You are not letting the few local media outlets control what you see, read, and hear. I believe you are trying to communicate that concept to our students. However, you are up against mass media.

    Here’s what our local media has failed to reported. Per the article, “You’d be hard pressed to find a news story anywhere that celebrates the country’s incredible scenery, diversity, food, unique brand of Islam, evolving and exciting musical tradition, or even its arresting array of sporting talent, though all those things are present in abundance.”
    There are no local media outlets bringing this to our attention and it will not happen if it does not generate profits. We ain’t cosmopolitan… yet.

    I believe my biased theory may be confirmed if you ask your students from where they get their news. It’s probably local. Mass media is the problem. We’ve allowed this construction to happen. If we do not seek more news, we contribute to the problem. (Oh yeah, and Bono has yet to jump on this humanitarian effort. Not unless there is a song from western artists attached to the event, will it receive the attention it deserves. Only then will mass media report on the song which will tangentially address the flood.)

    Sorry to ramble. Correct me if I am wrong.

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