Multan, Pakistan (AFP) Aug 18, 2010
Foreign aid has begun flowing to the 20 million victims of floods in Pakistan, but thousands remain without food or shelter as weather forecasts signalled there may be some let-up.
Monsoon systems were weakening after three weeks of torrential rains brought devastating floods that have left at least 1,400 people dead in the country's worst natural disaster, with survivors hitting out at the government's slow response.
The floods wiped out villages, farmland and infrastructure, and OCHA, the United Nations' aid coordination body, said that more than 650,000 homeless families were still without basic shelter.
At a camp for 3,000 displaced people in the south of Punjab province, most sat in crippling heat, batting away mosquitoes. Concerns were growing about cholera and typhoid, while many were suffering from stomach problems.
Half were children, an army official told AFP, with a few crammed into tents furnished with straw cots, while others were held back by soldiers as they attempted to reach medical and food supplies arriving by helicopter.
The UN last week launched an immediate appeal for 460 million dollars, and said Wednesday that funding had reached 54.5 percent of this target, though that included pledges that were yet to turn into cash.
The nuclear-armed country is on the frontline of the US-led fight against Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani military is locked in battle with Taliban in the northwest, on the border with Afghanistan.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has warned that the disaster could play into the hands of insurgents.
US ambassador to Islamabad, Anne Patterson, said: "We don't know what impact it's having on the insurgents... the idea that this flood would essentially come on top of a very corrosive insurgency is extremely worrisome."
Zamir Akram, Pakistan's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said the country had received more immediate relief aid through the UN and direct bilateral aid totalling about 301 million dollars (235 million euros).
The World Bank has also agreed to lend Islamabad 900 million dollars, warning that the disaster's impact on the economy was expected to be "huge" and would take years to put right.
The European Union announced that it would provide an additional 30 million euros (39 million dollars) in emergency relief assistance, bringing its total aid to 70 million euros.
In Washington, the State Department said US aid to Pakistan had reached around 90 million dollars, adding: "America's response to this tragic flood has been consistent with our humanitarian values and our deep commitment to Pakistan".
Islamabad has confirmed 1,475 deaths, but WHO representative Guido Sabatinelli told AFP he suspected the toll was much higher.
"We're talking about 20 million people affected today and there is no infrastructure and no health centres that can register the deaths," he said.
About six million people are deemed to be at risk of deadly water-borne diseases, with typhoid, hepatitis and cholera major concerns.
"Two million dollars are needed every day to provide water, this is not sustainable. We don't have two million dollars a day," said Daniel Toole, the regional director for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Ambassador Akram said reconstruction in northern areas alone could cost 2.5 billion dollars and said the floods had ravaged an area the size of England.
In Islamabad Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said the government was worried about some half million expectant mothers among the flood victims, and was making plans for those who would give birth soon.
"Among 14 million affected people there are about 500,000 pregnant mothers and we plan to move to or near hospitals those who are expected to deliver within two weeks," Kaira said.
Kaira said the official toll of dead and injured, as well as the number of damaged houses, could rise once the floods began to recede.
"Total confirmed death toll is 1,475 and 2,052 people were wounded, and 970,520 houses were damaged. These numbers may change on the higher side as the flood water recedes and damage assessment begins."
Former Pakistani cricket hero and politician Imran Khan Wednesday, along with a leading newspaper group, launched a fund-raising campaign to aid the flood victims.
"People do not trust government, so we have come forward and every rupee donated for flood-hit people will be accounted for," Khan told a news conference in Islamabad.
earlier related report
A fifth of Pakistani territory has been affected by the catastrophe, the worst in the history of the country, which has wiped out whole villages.
- July 29: Flash floods and landslides caused by monsoon rains hit northwestern Pakistan and Pakistani Kashmir.
- August 2: The UN says that nearly 980,000 people have been left homeless or have been displaced.
- The Red Cross appeals for aid.
- August 4: Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani calls on his administration to speed up the delivery of aid. There is a growing backlash against the civilian government and President Asif Ali Zardari over failures to provide food, water and sanitation to the victims.
- August 6: Pakistan declares a red alert as the flooding worsens, reaching the south and leading to the evacuation of half a million people.
- The floods have affected 12 million people in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, the national disaster management agency says.
- August 7: Flooding in the south, notably in the densely populated province of Sindh, brings to 15 million the number affected across the country according to the local authorities.
- August 8: Landslides in Gilgit-Baltistan province in the far north.
- Gilani visits flood-hit areas of Sindh province.
- August 9: Around 13.8 million people have been affected by the floods in Pakistan, making the scale of the disaster worse than the 2004 tsunami, 2005 earthquake in Kashmir and the 2010 Haiti earthquake, a UN official says.
- August 10: Six million people need humanitarian aid in order to survive, according to the UN.
- August 11: The UN appeals for 460 million dollars in emergency aid.
- The United States triples the number of helicopters helping Pakistan's flood relief effort.
- August 13: Aid agencies warn of a potential "second wave" of deaths due to disease.
- August 14: Gilani says 20 million people have been affected and the floods have destroyed standing crops and food stores worth billions of dollars.
- President Zardari makes his second visit to affected regions, after being heavily criticised for his absence.
- August 15: UN chief Ban Ki-moon pledges to speed up international during a visit to Pakistan.
- August 16: The United Nations warns that up to 3.5 million children are at risk from water-borne diseases.
- The World Bank says it has agreed to provide a 900-million-dollar loan to Pakistan.
- August 17: A senior World Health Organization official declares that the death toll is much higher than the 1,400 reported by the government.
- August 18: The European Union nearly doubles its aid to Pakistan to 90 million dollars as those affected continue to criticise their government.
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Aid response to Pakistan floods inadequate
Islamabad, Pakistan (UPI) Aug 18, 2010
New flooding alerts have forced tens of thousands of people in the northwest Pakistani province of Singh to flee their homes, while aid response to the flood-ravaged country is still considered inadequate. The United Nations says 6 million people desperately need emergency aid, but most still have not yet received it. "What is clear is that we need a lot more and we need it quick ... read more
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