Ottawa to continue matching donations for Pakistan
Published Sunday, September 12, 2010 5:11PM EDT
The government announced Sunday it will continue to match Canadians' donations to flood-ravaged Pakistan for another three weeks.
House Leader John Baird told an Ottawa news conference the government will continue to match every dollar of private donations, extending its original six-week program that was to expire on Sunday.
The government's contribution goes into its own Pakistan Flood Relief Fund, which is distributed to both Canadian and international humanitarian and development organizations.
Kevin McCort, the president of Care Canada, welcomed the announcement.
"As the disaster just keeps going, we're really encouraged that the match period has been extended because that just gives us more of a chance to tell people what's been happening, but also reassure them that when we have assistance from Canadians we actually can get aid into the hands of people in Pakistan," he told CTV News Channel.
The UN estimates that the flooding, which began in July after heavy monsoon rains, has affected some 20 million people and left roughly six million homeless.
An estimated 1,700 people have died, and doctors and aid workers on the ground in Pakistan fear that number will rise as lingering high-water levels contribute to the spread of respiratory infections, malaria and other ailments.
When the government announced the program last month, donations to flood relief in Pakistan amounted to considerably less than the tens of millions of dollars given by Canadians to relief efforts after January's devastating earthquake in Haiti.
McCort, who visited flood-hit regions of Pakistan a month ago, said the time of year may be a factor in the slow pace of donations because many people were on vacation or away from school-affiliated community groups.
"But a bigger factor seems to have been that there's a general sense of uncertainty amongst Canadians about whether humanitarian assistance can actually get to victims," McCort said.
That isn't true: Care Canada, for instance, has set up a number of medical clinics in the flood-affected areas of Pakistan, he said. The organization needs more donations in order to restock medical supplies, among other things.
"Our biggest concern is that we're able to head off an epidemic of water-borne diseases. We really want people to support us so that we can provide clean water to the millions in Pakistan," he said.
The Conservatives launched a similar program for Haiti, matching donations Canadians made to registered charities responding to the quake between Jan. 12 and Feb. 12.
Canadians donated an estimated $220 million, according to figures posted to the website of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. The government pledged to match those funds with its Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund.
With files from The Canadian Press