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Culture of Relief - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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For a long time and even today, we witness individual compassion and the generosity of official institutions that rush to help those in need when a catastrophe takes place. Nevertheless, the problem remains that the effects of catastrophes are usually greater than the humanitarian efforts that are made. The problem is not the quantity of aid provided but rather their quality and timing. In Pakistan and India, Arab aid arrived in areas that were destroyed by the earthquake where thousands of innocent people were trapped under collapsed buildings. Thousands of people have been left with no shelter or food and these have been the effects of a truly catastrophic natural disaster, yet the weak mass media fails to portray the real scale of destruction in the devastated areas.

The first lesson of relief is to send TV cameras along with the trucks carrying food and blankets to transmit the painful picture to the entire world. This may be the only way to win over the world”s sympathy and in turn, aid would increase. In addition, one of the fundamentals of providing relief is that those in need are given ready-to-use aid that does not require the use of a kitchen! Sending the people bags of flour and rice would be meaningless, as they have neither stoves nor clean water to cook with considering that they live in the open air. Countries that are skilled in this field of relief send canned foods that are ready for consumption so there is no need for cooking or mixing with water.

Due to the numerous earthquakes, storms and floods which no place on earth can evade, we are likely to experience more natural catastrophes in the future and this entails efficient relief efforts to reach those in need immediately. It is regretful to report that bulldozers and helicopters reached Pakistan only a few days ago. Such machineries would have assisted greatly in the search for survivors trapped under collapsed buildings however, these areas have been unlucky as the ruins proved to be too much for relief forces who arrived late only to find corpses.

As long as earth platelets continue to collide and floods persist, as well as the continuation of aridness of green fields and the determination of man-made catastrophes such as wars, then the responsibility of relief must be addressed as a permanent one that should be carried out efficiently in an organized and premeditated manner.

The main target is to help those in need no matter how big or small the aid is. If the relief associations were better developed, it would surely achieve the best results through immediate arrival and professional assistance to ravaged areas.

What is disappointing is that the great disaster that struck the Indian subcontinent had received little care in contrast to the response to Hurricane Katrina that had taken place in the United States. The American natural disaster saw a rush of volunteers offering relief and assistance despite the wealth of the United States in terms of capacities and resources. Poorer countries are far more entitled to relief efforts if it stems from compassion for humanity and is not part of political bribery or an act of showing off.

In Pakistan, due to the lack of insurance companies, governmental compensations, and charity associations, those who survived the crisis will have to endure life without basic facilities for a long time. It is only a matter of days before news bulletins become bored of the poor people of Pakistan and India, and their situation will be discarded from our TV screens.

This is the difference between fortunate residents of the rich countries and those less fortunate in the poorer parts of the world.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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