Oct 10 - 16, 20

In the wake of natural disasters, civil service organizations and humanitarian agencies come into full mode to provide relief and rehabilitation services to the affected population. Commercial organizations also rub shoulders with the relief providers as parts of their corporate social responsibilities. No matter if there is or are motives of publicity lying underside generosity as seen for example in printed logos of companies on relief goods or logistics, at least due assistances to victims are delivered.

Yet another devastating flooding this year sets off the corporate relief and rehabilitation activities in the flood-hit areas and the settlements made for accommodating dislocated flood victims.

As usual, companies are seen preferring marked participation in the relief works for several reasons. Lack of trust on government relief agencies and their funds management ability make them engage directly in the activities. It is too early to conclude on the aggregate losses and adequacy of mobilised resources in relation to the floods 2011. However, it can be said that direct losses of flooding and post-flood fallouts will need a financially sound recovery plan.

For the time being, companies are reported to be assisting prime relief efforts by giving out cash as well as relief goods including foods, shelters, potable water, survival kits, etc. for the flood victims. Companies banking on telecom services are also mobilising funds from mobile phone users. Share of expertise with a humanitarian agency is a nonmonetary donation that telecom and software companies used to prioritise in their CSR plans. Last year, Microsoft provided innovative software to few disaster relief organizations to enable them optimize relief and rehabilitation efforts.

Are the corporate donations or supports to relief activities incompatible with the magnitude of the disaster this year? Without consolidated data, this question can never be answered. Consolidation is very different in the present scenario when coordination is even seen lacking in local and international relief efforts.

Another important point is independence and isolation with which commercial organizations undertake relief works. There are several companies whose donations cannot be registered because of their works on small scale, deliberately unpublicised relief efforts, and their inaccessibility to mainstream publicity outlets.

Alternatively, effective sources of information in this regard are trade bodies. Media reports reported helps and supports of trade associations but obviously, these contributions do not put on brand and identity of a company, or member companies of that particular body.

All major trade associations in the country including federation of Pakistan chambers of commerce and industry (FPCCI), overseas investors chamber of commerce and industry (OICCI), and Karachi chamber of commerce and industry (KCCI) handed out or pledged donations and in-kind supports for the flood victims.

FPCCI is said to have donated Rs100 million for the relief and rehabilitation activities in affected areas. The national top trade association having industrial representations from across the country prepared Rs140 million worth of ration packs. Each pack had sufficient foods to sate the needs of family of seven for a month. It had prepared 30,000 such packs. Not up to the size of last year's donation of one billion rupees, OICCI put forth Rs200 million for the flood affected people. As per its capacity, KCCI had mobilised Rs20 million from its member companies. Pakistan business council is also said to have generated Rs150 million from different sources.

Since the data deal with the corporate contributions towards the flood relief activities, records of the charitable initiatives during last year's devastating floods must be worth studying for comparison purposes. As it is an open secret now that the zeal and promptness with which activists local and foreign alike came into action last year to help flood victims fight vagaries of disaster is unfortunately absent at this juncture, a comparison under the available statistics would reveal substantial differences in relief funds of comparable periods.

During 2010's floods that were unprecedented in nature without question, both local and foreign organizations and private and government entities opened up the floodgates of funds reminiscent of post-2005 earthquake. Volunteers from different organizations also participated in the relief and rehabilitation activities. Employees of private companies contributed parts of their salaries to flood relief funds. Mobilink, Meezan Bank, PIA, DHL, BMW, and Cathay Pacific were few of the names reported in the media for their significant donations to the flood victims of 2010.

As per the media records, employees of telecom operator Mobilink donated Rs6 million plus out of their salaries and funds collected from various sources. Besides, the company had committed Rs85 million for the flood relief activities. PIA provided free of cost freight services to airlift foods, cloths, camps, canoes, medicines, etc. from foreign countries. DHL had also extended its expertise to handle foreign donated materials. BMW handed out one million dirhams. Cathay transported good reliefs to Pakistan from abroad. Overall, companies had put forward their cash and in-kind supports to relief and rehabilitation works.

The severity of previous floods was high as compared to the present rain-triggered flooding. Dislocated population and flood-hit people of last year are still on the recovery stage, many of them living in makeshift camps along the highways for instance. In spite of that, present losses estimated so far are neither small, rather on some accounts, surpassed the antecedents and compounded the impact. It is feared that damages to crops especially cotton crops in Sindh are of highest proportion. That farming was the main source of income for millions of flood-hit people across rural areas explains evidently how much financially disturbed their post-flood lives will be. Companies can leverage their resources to help administrations prevent damages arising out of disaster by funding infrastructure developments. Capacity building can be effective in minimising loses.