The federal government will match donations from Canadians to help the people of Pakistan recover from massive flooding — though the amount of aid it is offering is far smaller than what Ottawa pledged after less-severe flooding in 2010.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that donations made to one of the 12 aid agencies that make up the Humanitarian Coalition will be matched until Sept. 28, to a maximum of $3 million.
Canada will send another $25 million to Pakistan to respond to the flooding and support development projects, in addition to the $5 million the Liberals announced last month.
WATCH | Pakistan braces for more rain as displaced families plead for help:
“We will continue to look at other ways we can help,” Trudeau said Tuesday at a news conference. He called the Pakistan floods a “horrific climate disaster.”
Emergency food, water, sanitation and health services are badly needed. Monsoon rains over the past three months have left more than one-third of the country underwater.
More than 33 million people are affected by the floods and with much of the country’s agricultural land underwater, the Pakistani government is warning of an impending food shortage.
When large swaths of Pakistan flooded in 2010, 20 million people were affected. The former Harper government pledged $71.8 million for relief efforts, including $46.8 million from donations Ottawa had matched.
Ian Smillie, a longtime international development practitioner, said he is perplexed by the federal government’s failure to match more funding or offer to triple donations.
The $3 million commitment is “peanuts,” he said. “The situation there is dire and it’s been dire for weeks.”
Smillie said Ottawa generally tries to channel funding through Canadian non-governmental organizations that don’t have a large presence in Pakistan.
But the Humanitarian Coalition, he said, includes multinational charities that know how to deploy funding to those most in need on the ground, at multiples more than what Canada has offered.
“They’re bound to say that it’s generous, and every little bit helps, but $3 million isn’t very much,” Smillie said.
Human Concern International, a Canadian charity that is not part of the coalition and that will not receive matching donations from Ottawa, warned the floods risk reversing gains in education and child health in some of the poorest regions of the country.
“What you’re looking at is 33 million people, close to the population of Canada, that have been affected by the floods,” said Mohamed Noorani, the charity’s deputy executive director.
“Dollar-wise, it’s quite clear that it’s not going to address the need as it is right now.”
International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan is in Pakistan now witnessing the devastation. Neither his office nor Global Affairs Canada would explain how they determined the amount of donations to match.
“We continue to look at ways to provide support to the people of Pakistan and we stand ready to provide additional assistance, as appropriate and based on needs,” wrote department spokesperson Marilyne Guevremont.