What’s with the fake camps?

There has been a lot of coverage of “fake aid camps” here: relief villages that are set up just before the visit of a VIP then whisked away when the politician, diplomat or United Nations official leaves. Last week The News raises the issue in an editorial…

Doubts over the manner in which relief activities are being conducted can only lead to a hesitation to hand over money. There is also the matter of Pakistan’s image. News items about fake camps do nothing to enhance it.

Some of the stories that prompted the editorial are…

So what’s going on? Are there “show camps” being set up every day to make things look good for the visiting dignitaries? Well, in that last story, where a Unicef official was apparently duped, UN staff said it was not a camp but a “distribution”

Unicef- Pakistan chief Martin Mogwanja said: “We are working in close coordination with district health officials of KP and non-governmental bodies. The relief camp in Charsadda was meant to provide services on mobile basis because affected people keep moving from one place to another and go wherever such facilities are easily available.”

One of the “camps” that Gilani visited also turned out to be a “distribution” – ie was only ever going to be a temporary affair. So what’s going on? It seems like the accusation is being bandied in order to settle scores. On one occasion it was apparently used by local journalists angered that they were excluded from Gilani’s visit in favour of a travelling press corps. On another occasion the allegations seem to have originated with local officials seeking to embarrass the UN. At a time when Pakistan needs all the favourable press it can get, these sorts of things really aren’t helping.

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