IT TAKES advanced seismographs to anticipate earthquakes and computerized weather models to predict hurricanes. It doesn't take sophisticated technology to predict that leaving thousands without shelter in the freezing Himalayas will be disastrous. Unfortunately, however, predictability is not a predictor of action. With perhaps two weeks to go before snows close down the relief efforts that followed the Kashmir earthquake, it's not clear that enough has been done to avert a horrific secondary disaster.
Last month's earthquake caused an initial death toll of at least 74,000 and left perhaps 3 million people homeless. But so far only about 340,000 tents have been distributed. Doctors are trying to immunize 1.2 million children put at risk by bad shelter, diet and sanitation. But the immunization drive has only half the $8 million that it needs. Relief teams are trying to position stocks of food in remote villages before the snows come. But the food lift got underway belatedly, although donors led by the United States have provided helicopters.
As The Post's John Lancaster described it Sunday, the contrast with the Indian Ocean tsunami is distressing. After the tsunami, the United States sent nearly $1 billion in government aid, 16,000 soldiers, 57 helicopters, 42 other aircraft and 25 ships. After the Kashmir quake, the United States has offered Pakistan $156 million in aid, including military equipment; deployed 950 soldiers; and sent 24 helicopters. Aid that's available for immediate relief needs has been especially slow in coming. The United Nations has appealed for $550 million in emergency aid, but donors have pledged only $159 million.
The tsunami triggered a tsunami of generosity because it hit during the holiday season and because Western tourists were affected. But the logistics of getting relief into the Himalayas are more daunting; the weather is more punishing. While no deaths were linked to disease and hunger following the tsunami, the risk of an after-disaster in Kashmir is real. Add in Pakistan's two-headed role as an ally in the war on terrorism and an incubator of terrorists, and the case for scoring a combined humanitarian-foreign policy success by delivering more relief faster should be obvious. President Bush has sent Karen Hughes, his chief of public diplomacy, to Pakistan. But sending another fleet of helicopters would be even more helpful.