Gulf sends aid but some say not enough

One week after a massive earthquake hit Pakistan, oil-rich Gulf Arab states are still sending cash, aid and relief teams, though the jury is out on whether they are doing enough to help the fellow Muslim nation.

    Saudi Arabia has issued aid worth $133 million

    "The Gulf response to the relief efforts has so far been excellent. But the [world] media does not highlight our effort in an appropriate way," the head of Kuwait's Red Crescent Society, Bargis al-Bargis, said on Sunday.

    "Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have sent large [amounts of] relief aid to Pakistan and more is on the way," Bargis said.

    Saudi Arabia on Saturday announced an emergency aid package worth $133 million to help rebuild infrastructure in Pakistan, where the 8 October earthquake killed more than 38,000 people, injured 62,000 others and left about 3.3 million homeless.

    Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates had earlier pledged $100 million each.

    Billions in losses

    Gulf countries have also organised airlifts of doctors, medicines, tents, covers and food to the stricken areas, while charities have been active collecting donations.

    However, Pakistan said it had suffered about $5 billion in losses to infrastructure and has been promised only $500 million to rebuild.

    Balakot has been reduced to a
    sea of tents

    Gulf newspapers have highlighted successes brought by aid efforts.

    Emirati newspapers said a field hospital set up by the UAE armed forces in Balakot - formerly a city of 40,000 people that was reduced to a sea of tents by the 7.6-magnitude quake - was treating 500 victims daily.

    On Friday, Dubai-based Gulf News published on its front page the rescue by Emirati teams of a 14-year-old boy after he spent 96 hours under the debris of his collapsed house in Balakot. They also saved a 12-day-old infant.

    The daily wrote the following day that the UAE was "punching above its weight".

    But "with so many aid organisations present, and with major industrial powers playing significant roles in the relief efforts, it is easy to overlook the efforts made by the UAE without the fanfare that hogs Western media", it said.

    A week after the disaster struck, a new collection centre began receiving donations in Dubai on Saturday.


    Pakistani diplomats in Dubai and Abu Dhabi said local airlines volunteered to carry hundreds of tonnes of relief aid donated by Pakistani residents of the UAE, who number about 700,000.

    "I think the Gulf states' contribution to alleviating the tragedy of their Pakistani brethren has been less than expected"

    Muhammad al-Misfir,
    Qatari academic

    The gas-rich country of Qatar announced emergency humanitarian assistance to quake victims while charities have sent delegates to distribute aid.

    Qatari academic Muhammad al-Misfir, however, did not think the Gulf states had fared well in their response to the earthquake, which also killed more than 1300 people, injured 5000 and left 150,000 homeless in Indian Kashmir.
    "I think the Gulf states' contribution to alleviating the tragedy of their Pakistani brethren has been less than expected," especially since Pakistan is a Muslim country that has "long supported Arab causes", he said.


    Saudi political analyst Turki al-Hamad said it was pointless to make value judgments on whether one country or group of countries was doing "enough" to help in the absence of a gauge for such efforts.

    Hamad recalled that Gulf countries were criticised for not doing enough during last December's tsunami disaster, in which nearly 217,000 people were killed when giant waves battered 11 Indian Ocean countries.

    "But what's the criterion for whether it is enough or not? Such assessments are often based on political stands. A positive stand toward a certain country would prompt an assessment that 'it is doing enough' and vice versa," he said.

    The answer is to create an "objective gauge", a mechanism whereby the United Nations would determine the damage suffered by a certain country and what wealthier member states should pay, he suggested.

    "It would be like an insurance system - we give others so that they would give us if and when we need them... No one is immune.

    "Who would have thought that the United States would need aid?" Hamad said in a reference to the devastation caused when Hurricane Katrina ripped through the southern United States in late August.



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