Pakistan floods

When I was thinking about what to write about this week, there was one issue that for me transcended all others. 

It's clear that we've been very slow in the West to realise just how devastating the floods in Pakistan have been.

Last week, the International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell told the UN that the global response was "woefully inadequate" and promised to double the contribution already pledged by the UK Government.

Although many theories have been put forward, it's difficult to understand why governments across the world have been so slow to act.

It's true that floods don't have the sudden impact of an earthquake or tsunami.  But the sheer scale of the flooding in Pakistan is clear.

One fifth of the country is under water.  The UN reports that 17 million people have been affected by the floods.  And 8 million people are homeless.

The fear now is that the population will be hit by widespread starvation if the aid agencies are not able to get the food to where it's needed.

And with large numbers of people unable to access clean water and sanitation there is also the threat of diarrhoea and cholera.

While 1,600 people have already died, the death toll will surely rise and we should do whatever we can to alleviate the humanitarian crisis.

Governments around the world can do no better than follow the example of the British public who have already donated £30 million - more than the governments of Germany and Japan.

It makes me very proud to be British when the people of this country demonstrate such compassion and generosity.

But putting to one side our moral obligation to help the Pakistani people, it must be in our own interest to get the country back on its feet.  If we don't help, the militant groups who thrive on chaos surely will.

Yesterday, the UK Government outlined how it will spend the additional money it has promised. 

Along with the immediate needs for clean water, shelter, food and healthcare, we will also need to think about the longer term.  So, for one thing, we'll need to supply farmers with the seeds to plant new crops. 

It may take several years, but I hope that we will see the Pakistani people begin to rebuild their lives after this dreadful tragedy.

Christopher N Howarth