At a town hall event sponsored by MSN, the Deputy Prome Minister Nick Clegg launched an attack on the ‘pitiful’ international response to the Pakistan flood disaster now in its third week.
"The response from the international community as a whole has been lamentable, it's been absolutely pitiful. I've been trying to think why is it that people are not reacting to the events in Pakistan, in terms of money and outpouring of compassion, in the way that happened after the earthquake in Haiti. I think one of the reasons may be because this is a disaster on a scale that people are struggling to understand." He said.
The area of land affected is in the region of the size of England and the number of people directly at risk is 20 million. Bridges, schools, houses and whole communities have been washed away by days of torrential monsoon rain. This is a huge humanitarian disaster by anyone’s yardstick.
There is massive displacement of people and severe risk of life threatening disease. As the Deputy PM says "We shouldn't be under any illusions. When the Secretary General of the United Nations goes there and says it is the worst humanitarian catastrophe he has ever seen, that is a real wake-up call for the whole international community.”
With one quarter of the aid coming from the UK you begin to wonder why everyone else is still standing in the sidelines.
Now health officials in Pakistan are warning that a second wave of deaths is imminent. The risk of cholera, malaria, respiratory disease and diarrhoea (which will be deadly in these conditions) threatens the lives of 3,500,000 children. I put the number in full just to get the message across.
Whatever our feelings about the plight of a relatively poor country that has pursued a nuclear weapons capability, these are real people suffering and dying. There is also the danger of anti western feeling should we not rise to the challenge. Something that may put back operations against the insurgents that endanger us for many years.
The UN has asked for $460 million but has found the international community slow to fill the pot. This is insanely criminal when you consider reports last month that British banks alone put aside Â£5 BILLION for bonuses.
But we in the West have set out our stall quite clearly. Banks and the people that run them are always more important than anything else and nothing it seems will now change that precedent.