To give or not to give

Saudi Arabia is now the biggest donor to Pakistan as the country struggles to deal with the devastating floods, donating around $100m earlier this week. It has long been the most generous Middle East country when it comes to giving aid, but others in the region have a far less enviable record. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Saudi Arabia donated more than $2bn in aid from 2000 to 2009 - two thirds of the entire amount given by all Middle East and North Africa governments. The next closest, the UAE, gave $434m.

For a full breakdown of donations by country and year, drawn from the Reliefweb database, click here: Aid commitments (pdf), but here's the top ten for the years 2000-2009:

  1. Saudi Arabia - $2.02bn
  2. United Arab Emirates - $434m
  3. Kuwait - $221m
  4. Turkey - $134m
  5. Sudan - $92m
  6. Qatar - $83m
  7. Iraq - $48m
  8. Algeria - $23m
  9. Libya - $8m
  10. Egypt - $7.8m

Generally it's the oil-rich countries which donate the most – Algeria, Libya and Sudan are all higher up the list than would be the case for most other areas of life. But some other countries aren’t really pulling their weight. Oman is the least generous of the GCC states, but it's further west where things get really odd: Tunisia has donated less than half the amount of Mauritania and most years doesn’t give anything at all.

There is one health warning with all these stats: they don’t show the full extent of donations, as a lot of the aid given in-kind like food, the time and expertise of volunteer doctors, or the loan of aircraft, is not given a monetary value, but even so.