Friday, August 20, 2010

Pakistan Flooding: Image Deficit or Donation Fatigue

With over 2000 fatalities and a huge flood problem in Pakistan caused by monsoon rains that began in late July, the big story on the news seems to be why are donations from countries and individuals limited. The comparison seems to be either of giving during the the 2005 Kashmir earthquake in Pakistan or the earthquake in Haiti earlier this year.

To me the interesting thing seems to be that the central coverage of the event is this very fact, that giving is less. At least, that's the story I keep on hearing.

It would seem the most popular explanation is to suggest that there is a image deficit and that people, nations, and organizations do not trust the Pakistani government to help ensure that those in need get it, and that money is not exploited or placed in the wrong hands. I don't doubt this theory, especially since Pakistan has been in the news far more, and associated with issues with Afghan and Taliban forces more than it was even in 2005.

Another, less popular theory is that of "donation fatigue." I struggle with this question, because I think many people if given information about how they can help in a practical way often respond even in the smallest of ways (whether that be a small donation made through text message or collecting of goods and supplies locally to be sent abroad). Yet I don't think there has been many strong cases for support of this area. I'm certainly not saying "no support" but I think generally the opportunity isn't there...the organizers, the TV spots, the corporate and governmental support.

Honestly, I don't buy the donation fatigue theory, rather I think that if it's not an image deficit, there hasn't been opportunities or presentation of value to supporting this region of the world in this particular disaster. And honestly, I feel like the lack of support has given the media a "guilt burden" to talk about it more to put this situation in the eyes of others. Except...the story they present is all about why people aren't giving, so it may not create the emotional context for action.

I can give some credibility to the idea of image deficit, but I struggle with the idea that there is donation fatigue, I think that is an inaccurate stance.

Image from AP story at

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