Disasters Emergency Committee looks to shift focus on to Pakistan floods

Pakistan Disasters Emergency Committee looks to focus media attention away from political issues.

Humanitarian need: Pakistan floods affect 14 million
Humanitarian need: Pakistan floods affect 14 million

Comms chiefs at the Disasters Emergency Committee have been attempting to shift media attention away from the political situation in Pakistan and towards humanitarian need, following flooding in the country.

The DEC became involved in co-ordinating the UK response to the disaster two weeks after flooding began last month.

Despite the floods having now affected more people than the Asian tsunami and the Haiti and Kashmir earthquakes combined, media coverage has been drawn to the political conflicts involving the country, said PR professionals.

DEC media manager Brendan Paddy said: 'We are finding ways of keeping the humanitarian need on the agenda when other people are interested in the politics.

'The challenge is that the political issues have been one of the dominant narratives for newspapers. We have been trying to highlight different topics to journalists.'

Earlier this week, officials from the UN urged the world to speed up aid to Pakistan after an initially slow response.

Bright One founder Ben Matthews said the political situation in Pakistan could have also been hampering appeal efforts.

'It is likely that it is overshadowing the appeal, with perceptions of corruption and concerns that the money won't get through to where it is most needed. Recent references to terrorism might also mean people have less sympathy.'

Charity PROs initially struggled to get media coverage of the crisis because of the nature of the disaster, said Tearfund head of media and corporate comms Katie Harrison, who is working with the DEC. 'Floods take days or weeks to unfold, so the story develops differently from an earthquake or tsunami.'

As coverage passes into a third week, the challenge for charity PR professionals is to keep the media focused on what is happening in the country and sustain the response to the appeal, added Harrison.

'PR professionals now need to find the "colour". This includes stories from the field about people whose lives are affected or UK residents who are hoping their loved ones living in the country are not affected. We've seen the story move along with the location of the floods, the visits of dignitaries and reports of cholera, all of which have kept the situation in the news.'

Timeline

- 15 August: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says floods are worst natural disaster he has seen

- 11 August: UN launches appeal for $459m (£290m)

- 6 August: UN reveals that 14 million people affected

- 4 August: Appeal launched by Disasters Emergency Committee

- 2 August: Officials say death toll has passed 1,100; 30,000 troops mobilised

- 31 July: Pakistani authorities put death toll at over 800; UN describes floods as worst in living memory

- 29 July: Rivers burst banks after heavy monsoon rains in north west Pakistan

 

6m - Number of children at risk of diarrhoea and pneumonia*

£15m - Amount raised for Pakistan Floods Appeal *

3,282 - Number of people following the DEC appeal Twitter feed *

20m - Number of people affected by the floods **

 

*Source: DEC

**Source: BBC as at 17.8.10

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