And a world away, a natural catastrophe of far greater magnitude continues to drown thousands and shatter the lives of millions. Since July 22, monsoon swollen rivers have rushed through one fifth of Pakistan, displacing at least 18 million people and killing thousands. The flooding is ongoing; just yesterday levees broke in Sindh province, displacing another million people. According to a United Nations relief official:
I try to imagine what an equivalent disaster would look like in the United States. Perhaps the magnitude would be somewhat equivalent if one spring when winter snows melted, the entire Mississippi River basin were engulfed by surging waters. In Minnesota, Lake Itasca would overflow and soon thereafter, the river would rush through parts of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. In Iowa, Dubuque and Davenport would be warned the flood was coming, but their sand bags would be breached and neighborhoods inundated. Next St. Louis would get its turn. Cairo, Illinois, at the confluence of the Mississippi and the Ohio Rivers would simply disappear. Despite the best efforts of Army engineers and the National Guard, large sections of Memphis would be the next to go. New Orleans may have some protection now from a hurricane storm surge, but could it survive a deluge flooding out of the entire central drainage of the continent?
Pakistan is supposed to be some kind of U.S. ally. Foreign policy scholar Stephen Walt points out that fruitless U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have left this country unable to offer significant help in a situation where we could actually do Pakistanis and our own security some good.
Horrible as the Pakistan floods are, they have not received the kind of obsessive first page news attention that we saw for the tsunami or the Haiti earthquake. And consequently they are not getting the kind of charitable help that is so needed. There are groups that have been working in Pakistan for years that can use well any donations U.S. individuals can spare for Pakistan. In particular, you might want to take a look at Global Fund for Women and Doctors without Borders.
Five years after Katrina, I can't push away the memory of the latest flood victims anymore than I can get those awful images of people abandoned on roofs in a flooded U.S. city out of my head.