An appeal to the world for Pakistan
By Aprille Muscara
NEW YORK - With an estimated 14 to 16 million people affected by what the
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) calls "the worst
monsoon-related floods in living memory", the United Nations launched a
humanitarian flash appeal on Wednesday seeking US$460 million for relief
efforts in Pakistan.
"The disaster is continually getting worse," said John Holmes, UN under
secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator.
Speaking to reporters at the appeal's launch, he noted that the number of
people affected by the floods, which began nearly three
weeks ago on July 22, surpassed that of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005
Pakistan earthquake and the January Haiti earthquake.
"The scale of the disaster is huge, the needs of the people affected by it are
huge. That's why we've appealed for $460 million this morning to try to deal
with the consequences of this disaster just for the immediate relief period,"
Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the UN, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, also
present at the launch, stressed the severity of the disaster, noting that the
impact of the floods was expected to lower Pakistan's projected gross domestic
product for this year from 4% to one-and-a-half percent.
"Six thousand villages have been wiped off the face of the earth," Haroon said.
"You can't get from one area to another - there's no connection. The phones are
down. The roads have blown away. It's like going back to primordial history."
He added that the floods had consumed 150,000 square kilometers of land, with
the number of casualties, estimated by OCHA to be at 1,200, difficult to
approximate given the displacement of masses of people as a result of the
Martin Nesirky, spokesperson for UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, told
reporters in a briefing that 560,000 people still need emergency shelter and
2.7 million children still needed urgent, life-saving care. In Khyber
Pakhtoonkhwa alone - the province hardest-hit by the floods - 2.6 million
people remained in need of food assistance.
"I have met people in Swat who have walked for days just to get food for their
families to eat," said humanitarian director of Oxfam Jane Cocking, who is
visiting flood-affected people in the country. "This is a race against time."
The nearly half-billion dollar flash appeal is for the coming 30- to 60-day
period. Holmes said that it would be updated at the one-month mark and would
"With cholera - God forbid, if these things spread; you're talking about much
higher sums of money," Haroon said.
Martin Mogwanja, UN humanitarian coordinator for Pakistan, told Inter Press
Service (IPS) that aid needed for long-term rebuilding efforts could exceed $1
"There's going to be a tremendous cost in terms of repairing roads, bridges,
telecommunications and electricity infrastructure and, most importantly,
repairing irrigation infrastructure that ensures the capacity of the rural
farmers of Pakistan to continue to produce the foodstuffs and cash crops that
sustain them," he said.
Prior to today's appeal, Holmes said that the international community had
pledged $150 to $160 million. "We're confident those figures will rise
rapidly," he said.
According to OCHA's most recent figures released on Wednesday, the US has
pledged $62.2 million, the United Kingdom $32.6 million, Australia $9 million,
Kuwait $5 million and Japan $3.5 million. These comprise the top five largest
pledges by UN member states, with private assistance exceeding $9 million. A
report in China's Global Times said that Pakistan's Taliban militants have
vowed $20 million in donations, while condemning overseas aid. "We believe it
[foreign aid] will lead to subjugation," Azam Tariq, a spokesman for the
Pakistani Taliban, said according to the report, citing AFP.
With the flood-related destruction of roads and bridges throughout the country,
physical access remains the greatest challenge in the relief effort.
Holmes noted the difficulty in access to areas controlled by insurgent forces
even prior to the onset of this disaster. "From our point of view, our
immediate concern is giving people aid when they need it," he said. "The
politics of it cannot be the concern of the UN or humanitarian agencies."
Meanwhile, another full week of rains is predicted. "It's still going on - we
don't know how far this is going to go," Haroon said.