May 19th, 2009
06:42 PM ET

Text aid straight to Pakistan

Editor's Note: A series of explosions in northwest Pakistan killed eight people Thursday night, and two suspected militants died in a gunbattle with Peshawar police on a rooftop, authorities said. Earlier this month,  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a way for people to text aid to the refugees in Pakistan. See that story below and learn more about the situation tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/05/07/pakistan.fleeing.the.fight/art.pakistan.refugees.jpg caption="These children are among the thousands of refugees this week at the Jalozai camp in western Pakistan. "]

Charley Keyes

CNN Senior Producer

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived at the State Department promising what she called 21st century tools to meet global problems. It turns out you may have one of those tools in your pocket right now.

Tuesday Clinton enabled every American with a cellphone to help some two million Pakistanis driven from their homes in and around the Swat Valley in the battle against the Taliban. A quick text message from your personal phone sends in a $5 donation. This is in addition to the $100-million U.S. government aid package Clinton went to the White House to announce on Tuesday.

“Now, Americans can use technology to help, as well. Using your cell phones, Americans can text the word "swat" - to the number 20222 and make a $5 contribution that will help the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees provide tents, clothing, food, and medicine to hundreds of thousands of affected people,” Clinton said Tuesday in the White House briefing room.

Clinton tried it out herself, off camera. “And before I came over here, we did that in the State Department. So we are making some of the first donations to this fund.”

It is anyone’s guess at this stage what kinds of returns texting and small increment donations can generate. But Clinton has high hopes. “I'm hoping that we'll have a big response to the text messaging. Just think if a million people in the United States gave at least $5, that's $5 million. And that would be a significant contribution from ordinary citizens, just people who care about what's happening.”

The plan is for the donation to show up on your cell phone bill. From there it would be credited to a non-profit organization called USA for UNHCR, that takes tax-deductible donations for the United Nations Refugee Agency.

The texting donations totaled $1100 just hours after the Clinton announcement, as word of the plan was just beginning to circulate. Apparently individuals are limited to five donations.

Secretary Clinton’s announcement of the texting donation claim came out of the blue, according to Greg Miller of USA for UNHCR. “It was a nice surprise,” Miller, a senior regional private-sector fundraiser, told CNN. The organization will keep records of how much money is raised and pass it on to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. “We will keep the tally of the money that will be raised by the organization and we want to make sure that it all goes through to help the emergency in Pakistan,” Miller said.

The organization’s web site lists how private contributions can make a crucial difference: $50 can register 150 displaced persons for assistance; $100 can pay for a survival kit including blankets and stoves. Miller said small donations can make an immediate impact in providing shade-cloth to shield people from summer sun.

It was Clinton’s tough talk that helped prompt the Pakistani government to launch this latest military offensive that has driven an estimated 1.5 million people from their homes in Northwest Pakistan. It was less than a month ago, April 22, when Clinton said the Pakistani government was “abdicating” to the Taliban and other extremists, warning that the prospect of a Taliban take-over in Pakistan was “a mortal threat” both to the security of the United States and the world. “I think that we cannot underscore the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan by the continuing advances, now within hours of Islamabad, that are being made by a loosely confederated group of terrorists and others who are seeking the overthrow of the Pakistani state, which as we all know, is a nuclear-armed state,” Clinton said in April.

Now with the Pakistani military offensive underway the problem of displaced person has ballooned from 500,000 last August to some two million now.

‘Today I am announcing that the people of the United States are responding to a request for assistance from the government of Pakistan with more than $100 million in humanitarian support. Now, this money comes on top of almost $60 million that the United States has provided since last August to help Pakistanis who have been affected by the conflicts, and in addition to the other funding for Pakistan that we are already seeking form the Congress,” Clinton said. Providing this assistance is not only the right thing to do, but we believe it is essential to global security and the security of the United States, and we are prepared to do more as the situation demands.”

Almost all U.S. aid will be funneled through United Nations or private agencies.

A senior official of the U.S. Agency for International Development told journalists at a background briefing that it is impossible to know how the crisis will develop. USAID has a disaster response team on the ground now in Pakistan.“The number of people moving (from their homes) over the past couple of weeks has been phenomenal,” the official said. Most of the people have taken temporary refuge with relatives or friends and only 200-thousand are being housed in camps. If the crisis worsens many more will require help both from the United States and international aid organizations. “We don’t know whether this will be days, weeks or months,” the official said.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Hillary Clinton • Pakistan
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Saurel Valbrun

    Dear Mr Obama and Mrs hallary clinton reason I sent this memo to you I would like let you know how immigration official treating family case. I had applied for my son since 1992 for him to came to leaving with me. Immigration official took at least 15 years to allowed him to came leaved with me in 2007 .After I sent all documentation required by immigration I still can't get any legal papers for him ,now immigration other deportation. President Obama please let immigration official rewied my son case. I believed someone make mastake on his case the refuse return to fixed the problem . I am asking for help from any body who can help me . I know it would very difficult for me to get to you president Obama and Hallary Clinton I would like to know if Cnn can put message in the air were someone who are very close to them can relate the message for me.thankyou very much MR Obama&Hallery Clinton

    Saurel Valbrun

    July 2, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  2. Abdul

    I think this is a great idea. Many people, like myself, are moved to help but want a simple, fast and convenient way to do so. The text idea meets all these criteria.

    For those who say we need to help Americans at home before we help those overseas, I encourage you to volunteer at a soup kitchen or donate to the Salvation Army. The text program is completely voluntary and based on private donations. As far as I can tell, it is not taking government money away from US citizens in need.

    June 1, 2009 at 5:34 am |
  3. Bill Baxter

    Have you never, for any reason on anything, or are you a flip flopper whom you have shown you have a strong dislike for. It is a display of intelligence to do what is best or what must be done even if you have to change your mind. It does not matter if you are talking about Obama or Bush.

    May 28, 2009 at 8:59 pm |
  4. James V Cannon

    One offensive defense to consider in the Korean challenge is to announce planning to stage materials and supplies in South Korea to house and feed a flood of refugees. Just imagine the impact of two million people in North Korea dreaming of an opportunity to rush southward to a waiting camp with food and tents.

    May 28, 2009 at 8:38 pm |
  5. Tim Gibson

    We have our own displaced men, women and children in this country without shelter and food much less health care. What about them, or are they just another casuality in the cuts to our own people.

    May 28, 2009 at 6:25 pm |
  6. Ramesh C Manghirmalani-Paris

    As per GOA USA has give 98 Billion dollars to Pakistan, is there accounting? Recently Musharraf bought apartment in London for 799,000 pounds, do we need to give US Aid to corrupt regime .Following 9/11, Pakistan became a U.S. ally once more, and unsurprisingly, almost all of the aid provided since has gone to military operations. By failing to commit to the long-term health of the Pakistani state, successive generations of U.S. policymakers have convinced many in Pakistan, both in and out of government, that we are a demanding power with little interest in their own security, rather than a genuine partner. Increasing political and economic instability and the failure of a military-centric approach to check growing violence demonstrate that the Pakistani people need more than military assistance to improve stability in their country.

    May 26, 2009 at 4:52 pm |
  7. Cindy Clark, New York

    Excellent idea!

    I'm glad we, Americans, are trying to assist and rectify the problem. After all, for those who know the history, the US played a key role in creating these problems in that region. (Back in the Soviet / Afghan way days)

    Stepping up and contributing for a humanitarian cause should only be praised. The money is being sent to the UN and private agencies (NGOs which are usually foreign). I'm not sure why people think this is going to the government of Pakistan. It's helping out over 2 million victims/civilians from a crisis (which the US created decades ago). These efforts should be applaused, NOT discouraged.

    May 23, 2009 at 2:04 pm |
  8. Tim Gibson

    While we can feel the pain of those people in Pakistan, we must not forget the pain of our own displaced citizens. The homeless, the people in need and on the edge of collapse in a personal manner.

    Perhaps congress can text swat to those people as well. In the mean time, we can start with waterboarding not only Bush and Cheney but Pelosi as well. For each bucket of water poured into the open mouths while blindfolded 10 dollars will be donated to the United Way to bring Americans back from the brink.

    May 22, 2009 at 6:38 pm |
  9. Frank

    Pakistan needs help, Why? Since Regean era. Pakistan Always has helped USA. Its one friend that has been honest with everything. Now its fighting the Taliban. Taliban has defeated Pakistani army on all fronts and has defeated USA too in Afghanistan. Pakistan wants Swat,
    why? because it gets tourist. Swat is one of the beautiful places on earth.Two million people are homeless only because Pakistan was told long time ago to give these Taliban home in Pakistan when Russia kicked them out of Afghanistan. Taliban wants to fight a War that will last 50 years with USA. Are we ready for this? I have been to Swat Valley in 2004. As born in USA I love USA. Those who are saying we are winning, they are lying to get more money for war. The only way for USA to win is to give Talibans chemicals, and we are not going to do that.We have tried everything. That was suggested by Taliban I met in Swat Valley. He called CIA as Comedy circus In Action.
    As my parents from Pakistan I hate Taliban too. I want this killing of Pakistani stopped. I hope this war stopped. I want peace. FRank Florida

    May 22, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  10. Martina Ilstad

    What is sheapper,fight a war many years put billion of taxpayer money int,it, and then suprise, it was the wrong enemy you fight again,and let the real enemy time enought, to get more weappons,to kill US soldiors and other soliers.If the ex US goverment have done their homework,thy know where this terrible terror comes from.And please dont tell me,know it will be a question about money.Its the only way to have a chance stopping terrorst.

    May 22, 2009 at 4:29 pm |
  11. Terry, TX

    Helloooooo......Are you kidding….texting for money….no way.....Take it out the billions this govt. has already alloted to Pakistan just this year.

    May 20, 2009 at 9:23 am |
  12. HZS

    Sweet of US to help displaced Pakistanis but would be even sweeter if they ensure that the money does not go for Mr. 10% percents personal use.

    May 19, 2009 at 11:28 pm |
  13. Abbas Hasim

    Hi All,

    This is good move from the govt. and people of USA.

    We all should appreciate this effort.

    Thank you


    May 19, 2009 at 11:17 pm |
  14. Terry, TX

    You have got to be kidding....texting for money....no way. Take it out the billions this govt. has already alloted to Pakistan just this year.

    May 19, 2009 at 10:50 pm |
  15. Nan Kelly Wilson

    What a great idea! It made me feel powerful for a moment. I could really act upon my immediate desire to help.

    May 19, 2009 at 10:50 pm |
  16. David

    This is a terrific concept. However, I just tried it and it didn't work – I got a message that this is an invalid number

    May 19, 2009 at 10:47 pm |
  17. Prof Ramesh Manghirmalani , California

    Why should aid be funneled via Pakistani Private agencies, we should ask Christians,agencies to funnel the aid? How come Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is on 15 Day tour from Dubai, London, USA, Paris and again London, when these kind of crises are effecting the Nations. I feel Pakistan is trying to ask for aid and funnel money to Atomic Program.Now with the Pakistani military offensive underway the problem of displaced person has ballooned from 500,000 last August to some two million now so fast?

    May 19, 2009 at 10:28 pm |
  18. Ben

    This could turn out to be a another big mistake. Pakistan is a country that is torn with lots of issues economically and socially. Pouring more money into this area only makes the officials line up thier pockets and this money would turn up in the Dubai real estate or maybe some Swiss bank as supposed to use it for humanitarian causes.

    May 19, 2009 at 10:25 pm |
  19. Annie Kate

    I'm surprised we have any money left to aid other countries but I am glad we are assisting Pakistan with their refugee situation. I'd much rather see our tax dollars go there than in the pockets of corporate America.

    May 19, 2009 at 7:24 pm |

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