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Group raises money for Pakistan

BY NINA EARNEST | OCTOBER 25, 2010 7:20 AM

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Clear vocal harmonies carried across the vaulted ceiling of the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church as several dozen people gathered to raise money for Pakistani flood relief.

The vocal group Musick’s Feast, a nonprofit charitable and educational organization, organized and performed during the benefit. Though the Oct. 23 event was one of several that local churches have sponsored since Pakistan’s catastrophic August flooding, efforts appear to be far below the level of response to other major natural disasters.

According to the United Nations, nearly 2,000 people died during the flooding, and more than 20 million others face homelessness, malnutrition, risk of disease, and loss of livelihood.

Elizabeth Aubrey, a professor emerita in the University of Iowa School of Music and the music director for Musick’s Feast, introduced the concert benefit with a description of Pakistan’s disastrous flooding.

“We lived through our own floods,” she said, referring to the Iowa floods of 2008. “We were lucky.”

All proceeds benefited Action Against Hunger, the U.S. branch of a French charity. Figures for money raised at the event weren’t available Sunday night.

Action Against Hunger has been in Pakistan since 2005, and, since the flooding, it has worked to distribute drinking water and hygiene kits and to develop cash-for-work programs.

But aid has been slow in coming. As recently as Oct. 15, Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon sought international aid to reach the organization’s $2 billion goal for Pakistani relief — only 34 percent of that goal has been collected since September.

Aubrey said Pakistan’s flooding seemed to have fallen off the radar.

“We wanted people to be reminded there is still a great need there,” she said.

At the UI, where students organized multiple large charity events in the months after Haiti’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake, she said little has been done for Pakistan.

UI Student Government President John Rigby said student reaction for Haiti was much stronger.

Rigby thinks heavy media coverage for Haiti contributed to the public recognition of the disaster, he said. But, he said, that is not to say Pakistan needs less support.

“I think both events are catastrophic and should be important for students both here and abroad,” Rigby said.

According to the charitable organization Giving USA, $25 million was donated to Pakistan five weeks after the disaster, compared with $900 million during the same time frame after the Haiti earthquake.

Thomas Gruca, a UI marketing professor who has studied charitable giving, said the choice to give comes down to how donors identify with a cause and accessibility.

Haiti is more geographically accessible for volunteers and the media, he said. Celebrities such as Wyclef Jean promoted charity for the nation and raised awareness of the country’s needs.

The type of disaster can also determine aid.

Earthquakes come out of nowhere, he said, and appear to have a greater immediate impact than heavy flooding. People may see flood waters recede but not realize the lasting devastation.

“The flood’s not over,” Gruca said. “That’s just the start.”


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