NEAL CONAN, host:
Floods continue to wreck havoc across Pakistan, engulfing entire villages and huge patches of farmland. An estimated 20 million people have been affected. Many are still in dire need of food, drinking water, shelter and other relief supplies. The United Nations, the World Bank, the U.S. have all promised billions of dollars in aid, but private funds have been slow to come in.
Today, we want to hear from Pakistani-Americans, what are you doing in your community to help flood victims? 800-989-8255. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the conversation at our website, that's at npr.org, click on TALK OF THE NATION.
We begin with Daniel Borochoff, president and founder of the American Institute of Philanthropy. He's with us from his office in Chicago. Nice to talk with you again.
Mr. DANIEL BOROCHOFF (President and Founder, American Institute of Philanthropy): Yes, good afternoon, Neal.
CONAN: And compared to Haiti, it seems Americans have not been as responsive to Pakistan.
Mr. BOROCHOFF: No, they haven't so far. And there's many factors coming together, a lot to make it difficult. And there's a lot of mixed feeling. And one of the biggest one, of course, is our difficult economic situation and also the time of the year. People are getting back from their summer vacations and looking at their credit card bills from their vacation or travels.
Mr. BOROCHOFF: They just don't have discretionary income that they had had before, let alone would try to understand all the complications revolving around the Pakistan, you know, Pakistan and the religion. And I really strongly encourage people to put aside the politics and the religion, and realize this is a humanitarian disaster, and we really want to help these people that are suffering, but it really hasn't come forward.
But, you know, it hasn't come forward before in other crises: the 2005 Pakistani quake where only about 150 million was given, and there were 80,000 deaths and four million homeless. And let's compare that with Haiti: Haiti where we gave 1.4 billion - and come on now, the population of Haiti is 9.7 million and you just said 20 million people are affected. So this is already double the entire population of Haiti. So people really, you know, I don't want to do a lot more.
CONAN: Well, the two examples you gave, this current flood and the earthquake, what they had in common was Pakistan. Is there some animus toward that country that people are responding to, do you think?
Mr. BOROCHOFF: Well, there certainly is. I mean, studies have shown that 64 percent of Pakistanis consider Americans enemies and only nine percent consider us to be partners. And there's a lot of confusion about the situation over there. There's a lot of corruption. In fact, I just saw a news report claiming that - in the London Telegraph - claiming that 300 billion earthquake was misused by Zardari...
CONAN: Now the president.
Mr. BOROCHOFF: Now the president. So it - the corruption is a problem. I wouldn't recommend people giving money to the Pakistani government, but there are a lot of great charities and nonprofits that people can work through that, you know, have arrangements with local groups over there. And at charitywatch.org, we've identified groups that are financial efficient and received A and B grades from the American Institute of Philanthropy.
CONAN: There's also a list that's been issued by the State Department, and there's a link to it on our website. These are places where they suggest if you're interested in donating you might go. But, nevertheless, again, you mention Haiti, corruption no stranger to Haiti either. If corruption were the issue, you would've think it would've been effective - it would've been in effect there, too.
Mr. BOROCHOFF: Right. It's - the scale of this is so large, it's something that - more akin to Africa and people feel like, that, you know, a certain amount of hopelessness, you know, that, you know, in solving these problems. People are upset about, you know, Pakistani, you know, about concerns about them, you know, about terrorists being, you know, being harbored over there and somehow that this money might get diverted to terrorism, and that certainly is a real possibility.
But on other hand, do we want to let all these - let people suffer and do what, you know, and do without it? It's going to get a lot worse. And I really view this as a great opportunity to win people over, because in Indonesia, which is another Islamic country, and Americans were a lot more generous with the tsunami and gave nearly $2 billion.
And there were actually surveys that were done and found that after the tsunami, Indonesians felt a lot better about the United States after we were so generous in helping out with the tsunami. Of course, we lost that public approval in Indonesia with the Persian Gulf War, unfortunately.
CONAN: Let's get a caller on the line. Chris(ph) is with us. Chris is calling from Boise.
CHRIS (Caller): Yes, hello.
CHRIS: Hi. Yeah. I tell you, I was thinking that what we've heard on the news a lot lately has really been about how Pakistan and is harboring, you know, elements of the Taliban, elements of al-Qaida up in the north. And we hear a lot about the corruption. We hear a lot about the government inefficiency to deal with the terrorists that are hiding -you know, it appears to be hiding right under their noses. And so I think there's a lot of thought about, you know, why should we help this people out? Its either going to go to terrorists or it's going to go to fatten someone's Suisse bank account?
And, I mean, I do agree that we should help because I was in Iraq when the tsunami hit and a buddy of mine was in the Navy, who helped with the tsunami. And you know, the shot in the arm that we got, the public perception, you know, made it worthwhile. And here, like I said, I agree with the speaker that here we have a chance to do something to help out and show that we're not judging all Pakistanis, all Muslims, you know, on - with the same blanket condemnation.
CONAN: All right. Chris, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.
CHRIS: Thank you.
CONAN: Let's go now to Peter Biro, a senior communications officer at the International Rescue Committee. And he joins us from the Swat Valley in Pakistan.
Mr. PETER BIRO (Senior Communications Officer, International Rescue Committee): Hello, there.
CONAN: Hi, Peter Biro. How are you today? And can you give us some idea of what the situation there is like?
Mr. BIRO: Certainly. Well, it's obviously quite astonishing disaster we're witnessing. I was just walking around - the town here is Mingora, the capital of Swat. And, you know, entire neighborhoods are destroyed by the river. Collapsed large buildings, where walls and roofs have simply just caved in and are lying in the river. And the poorest, one-story brick mud dwellings have just disappeared simply. They're gone.
And I met a man there called Hader(ph) and he was digging, actually, in a pile of mud. And told me he worked as a tailor and how he was digging to try to find his sewing machine so he could start to earn a living again.
CONAN: What is the...
Mr. BIRO: That is, of course, his concern.
CONAN: I'm sorry. What is the biggest need for the people right now, is it clean water?
Mr. BIRO: Well, certainly, yeah, that's what the International Rescue Committee is focusing on right now, to try to bring clean water to people to prevent disease from spreading. We've already started off with chlorination tablet distributions. We're also planning to truck in water and clean wells and things like that. I saw a well today, for instance, that was completely filled up with thick, thick mud. And this is a communal well that lots of people are using, obviously.
CONAN: Mm-hmm. And who are you working with there, trying to coordinate? Is it the military?
Mr. BIRO: No, we work independently of the military, we go to coordination meetings with American agencies and other non-governmental organizations. And we try to coordinate our response to prevent duplication and to see what the needs are. And then we analyze the facts and we try to respond quickly as we can to needs.
CONAN: The Swat Valley, people will recognize its name from news reports as an area of conflict in recent months. I've also read descriptions that this is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Mr. BIRO: It is, indeed, beautiful. It's - I'm surrounded here by fantastic scenic hills. And this was a tourist destination not too long ago, a decade ago, perhaps. And that's all ended with the rise of the Taliban militancy in the region and also the Pakistani government (unintelligible) against the Taliban.
Mr. BIRO: And this is also another problem here, of course, a lot of the people who were displaced by that conflict are the ones that are displaced again by this flooding. So it's a double tragedy.
CONAN: What - do you give credence to the comments of the Pakistani foreign ministry yesterday who said that the world needs to take note of the fact that if the outside community does not provide support the - it could be the Taliban that provides support and it could reap profits from this?
Mr. BIRO: It's very hard for me to answer that question. I mean, certainly, the community is recovering from a recent conflict. And it's, in fact, still going on in some pocket between the government and Taliban. And that is a tragedy. This country - and it sort of, in many cases, hit people were already displaced out of the plain. But I haven't heard any reports of any militants groups disturbing aid distribution or - nor from people that we help, or our national staff there in the villages.
CONAN: And I know you're on the ground there in the Swat Valley, in northwest Pakistan, but do you know how our contributions are doing for your organization? Are you getting enough money?
Mr. BIRO: No, I wouldn't say we're getting enough money. It's certainly a shortfall. And we talked about earlier, the UN consolidated effort has just been partly filled, at least 20 percent or so. So we're desperately in the need for more money. And this is a crisis, obviously, that will have to be addressed for a very, very long time.
We're talking livelihoods, food security, you know, education. I see -there's a truck that I saw at school today that was completely caved in. The girls' school and the books and everything was gone - were gone, and the students' school year is just supposed to start. And they can't start. Its just simply impossible. So, there are so many issues to address, there's so much money needed.
CONAN: Peter Biro, thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.
Mr. BIRO: Thank you.
CONAN: Peter Biro, senior communications officer at the International Rescue Committee, with us from the Swat Valley in Pakistan. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
And Daniel Borochoff is still with us. He's the president and founder of the American Institute of Philanthropy, with us on the line from his office in Chicago. And the kind of need that we were hearing in that description, Daniel, well, it's not just - sadly, not just isolated to the Swat Valley.
Mr. BOROCHOFF: No, it's covering a broad swathe of, you know, of the country, in particular, a lot of the cotton. Something about - I read that 20 percent of the cotton production and the garment industry or the fabric industry is really important, vital to the Pakistani economy, so there's going to be some economic fallouts. And there are some groups, Oxfam, for instance, that's going to be hiring local people for community service projects to help...
Mr. BOROCHOFF: ...help people get some money so they can start helping provide for themselves. And that's really the - you know, a lot of that - people should think about the immediate suffering going on now, but helping these people get back on their feet. So, you know, people really need to stay with this crisis and not just follow it when there's nice pictures to put in the news of the flooding. They really need to realize that there's immediate, intermediate and long-term needs, and it looks like there's going to be a lot of long-term needs going on in Pakistan.
CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. This is Mike(ph), Mike, with us from Fresno.
MIKE (Caller): Yeah, hi. I gave to American Friends Service Committee appeal I got in an email. Thats the Quakers. I've given to the equivalent organization for UNICEF or the United Nations. Your philanthropy person there can probably verify their quality. And I agree with the earlier caller that whatever we did in Indonesia can be great PR, and very effective for the United States. Whatever we do, it's going to look good for us in Pakistan. And I don't believe, you know, just looking good is important. It's just helping those people that is important.
And as a metaphor, the people of Iran are good people. It's not just the crazy Red Guard who are scapegoating the United States as bad guys and making us evil or making Israel evil. We have to remember that the people everywhere are good people. And it's usually the people, the war makers and the war profiteers who are scapegoating or the politicians who start wars, as they did in Vietnam and as they've done in Iraq and Afghanistan.
CONAN: The Red Guards were in China. The Revolutionary Guards, I think you're talking about...
MIKE: Revolutionary Guard.
CONAN: ...for Iran. All right, Mike. Thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it. Let's see if we can go next to Miriam(ph), Miriam, with us from Richmond in Virginia.
MIRIAM (Caller): Yes. Hi. Thank you for taking my call. I just wanted to mention one thing that - I'm actually a Pakistani-American. And I totally understand the skepticism and the doubt about giving money for the victims of the disaster, but I just recently found out a wonderful thing. The Pakistan International Airline, they are actually taking all material goods and shipping it for free. So, we are actually, in Richmond, putting a little drive together for people - to encourage people to donate more material supplies like water, like food, tarps, plastic sheets...
Mr. BOROCHOFF: I wanted to caution people, though, with that. Make sure that anything that you're distributing is something that the charities and agencies need because we don't want to clog the supply lines. There's, you know, limited distribution capability. And so, otherwise you could cause just havoc and a mess and lots of additional problems. So, certainly clear it before anything is, you know...
MIRIAM: (Unintelligible) to encourage them.
Mr. BOROCHOFF: ...it's sent over there because the costs are - a lot is better, actually, to buy - help the local economies and buy, you know, buy goods, help the people (unintelligible)
CONAN: Okay. Hold on just a second. Miriam, you were trying to get back in there?
MIRIAM: I was - just wanted to say, do you think that because there is such desperate need for things like just, you know, clean water, would it hurt to collect waters? You know, if people are willing to donate things like that, is it worth going through the effort? I mean, is this material actually going to get to the people if an organization like PIA, Pakistan International Airlines, is making this commitment? So, if - what I'm trying to say is, does it hurt?
CONAN: Well, presumably, they're just going to transport it. They're going to - somebody else is going to distribute it because they don't have the capacity for that. And, again, that would depend on the agencies that you contact. I - there's a link, again, to the list of philanthropies at the State Department website at npr.org, click on TALK OF THE NATION. You can find that list there. Thank you, Miriam, very much for the phone call.
I did want to read this email from Dennis(ph) in San Antonio. Perhaps some in the U.S. are given out. We've had the earthquake in Haiti, flooding here, a recession, record unemployment - oh, yeah, that little incident down at the Gulf. On top of that, the U.S. has given more money than anyone else besides the fact that we've sent a lot of money -military into Pakistan to render aid. Where are the Saudis? Where are the rest of those in the Middle East who are very Muslim and have very deep pockets? It helps to remember that for whatever reasons, justified or not, Pakistanis, as a group are not the most ardent of U.S. supporters. Well, this may be an opportunity to turn that around if indeed they do see aid coming in.
Daniel Borochoff, thank you so much for your time.
Mr. BOROCHOFF: Sure. My pleasure.
CONAN: Daniel Borochoff, president and founder of the American Institute of Philanthropy, with us from Chicago. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.