As I write this, there is a light drizzle. The first rains in nearly three months that may be the mark the end of the dry and hot spell of weather that this city has been submitted to since June. With any luck we will be rid of the soft powder of dust that made the laundry such a nightmare all these months.
While rain after a period of heat is likely to be viewed as a welcome relief, lets consider the plight of the people of Pakistan who are cursing the skies for its bounty.
According to news reports, this year’s monsoons have had the highest amount of precipitation in the country’s recorded history. Considering that Pakistan has been home to several civilisations and literate invaders, going back to some time before 500BC, this is a long time indeed.
Or maybe, they started keeping weather records more recently in which case it would be reduced to a period of two centuries. However, even in this event, the highest amounts of rains in two centuries is quite a prospect if you think that the affected areas are much more densely inhabited now than the beginning of the nineteenth century.
The response of the Government of Pakistan was until last week described, rather charitably, as inadequate. The President did not even break a European tour to rush back and attend to one of the country’s largest catastrophes of all time.
To be fair to them though, the scale of devastation was such that even with the best efforts their relief efforts would always have fallen short. Side stories of charities run by radical Muslim groups stepping into the gap where government assistance was unable to be effective began to come out.
Even more shocking was the news that the World Bank had to make two loans to Pakistan. An international community that had come to the quick rescue of earthquake stricken Haiti had patience only to extend to Pakistan a line of credit with a commercial rate of interest. Somewhere between February and August, compassion had died.
The question on the minds of most observers was, ‘why the difference in response?’ After all, Pakistan is a major ally of NATO in the battle against the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan and the hunt for Al Qaeda fugitives.
An ally with extremist Islam issues of its own and one in which a large section of the population believes that Pakistan’s help in this fight goes against its national interest.
You would have thought it would be in the interest of NATO countries, who are some of the wealthiest in the world, to ensure that this disaster did not overwhelm Pakistan and maybe score a few PR points to.
It turns out that if you are a far-flung third world country, you are on your own when disaster strikes. No matter how many sacrifices you have made in a fight that you did not start. More especially if there has already been a huge humanitarian drive earlier that year.
It is a sobering lesson for any poor country in the world especially over here in Africa. Acute hunger and floods have hit Niger as we speak, how many of you readers can say you were even aware of it. As a continent, we do have the resources to help one or two nations when the vagaries of nature hit it, the only trouble is mobilising them.
On a regional, and where possible continental, level we should make plans to get assistance to those who need it the most. Relying on rich friends, it seems, can sometimes only get you into debt at a time when you can ill afford it.
Oscar Kabbatende is a lawyer