The reports of the devastation caused by the October 8 earthquake are very distressing, and we may not yet know the full extent of the tragedy. At this stage at least 54000 people have died in Pakistan and 1400 in Indian-administered Kashmir. But there is a monumental humanitarian crisis unfolding, with about three million people homeless, many in remote locations, and winter approaching rapidly.
What really sickens me is the apathy on display, here in Australia at least, from the self-styled agenda-setters - the media and the pollies. It seems that unless a disaster hits a tourist resort full of Western holiday-goers, it's not news. Just look at the A Current Affair website to see what Ray Martin's priorities are these days.
The ICC was quick off the mark to announce a donation of half a million US dollars on October 11 to the Red Cross. This was laudable, but there hasn't been much follow-up since. Day two of the ICC "super test" at the SCG was designated as a fund-raising day for the Red Cross Earthquake Appeal. The match, as we know now, was a big flop, and not very conducive to running charity appeals. According to ICC president Ehsan Mani, about $1.5 million AUD was raised.
Well short of the 14 million dollars raised during the Tsunami relief one-day game at the MCG in January.
There has been criticism directed at the ICC for failing to arrange a special charity game along the lines of the January tsunami relief match, notably from Shoaib Akhtar. There have been suggestions from the Asian Cricket Council that they would organise a fund-raiser. Nothing definite has been announced to date, and after the fiasco of announcing, then being forced to cancel, a second tsunami relief game mooted for Eden Gardens in February, I'm not too confident of anything from them this time.
I note that PCB chairman Shahryar Khan told reporters in Lahore last week that the ICC's "logistical reasons" for not staging a special match were that players from the South African and New Zealand teams would not have been available, and that sponsors could not be organised in time.
Err, hello? What happened to that enormous spirit that was on display in January to move heaven and earth in the name of humanity?
Still, there is some progress being made within the cricketing fraternity. The PCB announced on Tuesday that they will stage a televised twenty-overs game between Pakistan and a Rest of Pakistan XI at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore on Sunday.
Thursday there came an announcement that the England touring team, now in Pakistan, will hold a golf day at the Royal Palm Beach golf course in Lahore on December 4 to raise funds for earthquake relief. Hmm.
I also note that there was a hockey game played in Rotterdam on Wednesday between the Dutch team and a rest of the world selection. Holland won 7-4, and the event raised 21 million Euros for the earthquake relief appeal. That's more than 25 million dollars US.
The situation is dire for many many people in northern Pakistan. If it weren't for the tsunami, this would be the world's biggest natural disaster in years. Please read the latest report from the UN's World Food Programme, issued a few hours ago, which sets out the current status of the relief effort. In particular, I'd like to highlight these comments from WFP Regional Director Amir Abdulla:
"The next three weeks are crucial. Hundreds of villages that are remote today will become impossible to reach in a few weeks. People have lost their homes and their winter food stocks have been largely destroyed.
"It’s quite simple: if we can’t get to them before winter, they are going to die. More than 50,000 died of injuries from the quake – a further 50,000 could now die of exposure."
I've made a donation to Oxfam Australia's South Asian Earthquake Appeal, and I'd strongly recommend to anyone who hasn't yet given to any of the aid agencies at work in the region, please do so.
There's a long list of charitable aid agencies listed in the bottom half of Wikipedia's page on the 2005 Kashmir Earthquake.
If anyone knows of any cricketing activities in aid of the earthquake relief effort not mentioned here, please add a comment or drop me a message. I'll give this a mention also in a future podcast.