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. "]
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.
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