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Aid response to Pakistan floods inadequate

Clinton to pledge more US aid for Pakistan at UN
Washington (AFP) Aug 18, 2010 - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will announce extra aid for a flooded Pakistan Thursday at a UN meeting that will mobilize international support for the country, her spokesman said. The chief US diplomat will speak to the UN General Assembly in New York about "the humanitarian situation from the floods in Pakistan," spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters. The general assembly, expected to meet around 3 pm, "will be an opportunity to express solidarity and to further mobilize support of member states and the international community for the situation in Pakistan," he said. During her visit to New York, Clinton will also meet with both UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Crowley said.

"And at tomorrow's meeting we expect that she will update and announce an increase in the US assistance to Pakistan," Crowley said. Steadily increasing its contribution, the United States said it has now given some 90 million dollars towards flood relief, distributing the funds through the Pakistani authorities or relief organizations on the ground. "These funds are being used to provide critical supplies to flood affected populations," the State Department said in a statement. "The US also is providing millions of dollars of additional in kind and technical assistance," it said. It said it is providing temporary bridges to replace those washed away, and that 18 US military and civilian military aircraft stationed in Pakistan and three in Afghanistan have been deployed in support of relief and rescue operations. "US helicopters have evacuated 5,912 people and delivered 717,713 pounds of relief supplies," it said.

On August 4, days after the flooding began, Clinton promised that Washington would help Pakistan, a top ally in the fight against Islamist militants, cope with a disaster affecting millions of Pakistanis "in the days and weeks ahead." Meanwhile, the US government could divert part of its five-year, 7.5 billion dollar non-military aid program for Pakistan -- which was adopted by Congress last year -- into short-term relief. "We have begun to think about what we will do with that long-term security assistance provided underneath Kerry-Lugar-Berman," the deputy special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Frank Ruggiero, told reporters. "And that could require us shifting it from what we thought was a priority three weeks ago to what is a priority today," he said. "What we'll have to wait and see is what are the mid to long-term economic needs of... Pakistan that we could use that funding to address," he said. "But I guess we would also consider more immediate needs as they arise."
by Staff Writers
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 quickly," said John Holmes, the humanitarian coordinator for the United Nations, the New York Times reports.

The international response to recent disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti and the Asian tsunami in 2004 were propelled partly by the massive, sudden loss of life and gripping images of rescue efforts, he noted.

U.K. Development Minister Andrew Mitchell, touring devastated areas in northwest Pakistan, told the BBC Wednesday about the "awesome force of nature" that swept through the region, leaving water marks on the walls 12 feet high and wiping out everything in its path.

The affected area, he pointed out, covers a 1,200-mile front, an area the size of England.

"The challenge here now is to make sure people can rebuild their lives as fast as possible," Mitchell said.

While this catastrophe may not have been widely understood in the international community so far, he said, "there's no excuse for it not being understood now."

Akbar Ahmed, former Pakistani ambassador to the United Kingdom, told the BBC that compared with the outpouring of sympathy and aid after the 2006 tsunami in Asia and the earthquake in Haiti, the response to Pakistan's disaster has been "almost casual, lackadaisical."

Ahmed, who is now chair of Islamic Studies at the American University in Washington, said the way Pakistanis are portrayed in the media could explain in part the casual response their plight has elicited.

Because of "almost routine 'paki-bashing'" in the media, "Pakistan has become almost synonymous with extremism and violence and terrorism."

"People feel, 'why should we be aiding a country that is essentially supporting terrorism?' That is the consequence of a lot of irresponsible commentators, simply labeling an entire nation, a nation of terrorists."

He called for the United States to "show itself as a strong, visible friend of Pakistan."

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik, for his part, in responding to a reporter's questions about a possible lack of trust from potential donors that the Pakistani government would not properly allocate funds to help victims, said, "I assure the entire international community who will be supplying aid in any form … we give them assurance we will be auditable," adding that the government is considering hiring international audit firms to monitor the funds.

"This (aid) belongs to the poor people, the flood victims," Malik said.

earlier related report
EU boosts flood aid to Pakistan to 70 million euros
Brussels (AFP) Aug 18, 2010 - The European Union nearly doubled its aid to flood-stricken Pakistan to 70 million euros on Wednesday and announced a trip by its top aid official after calls for Brussels to do more to help.

European humanitarian aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva announced that she would travel to the affected areas of Pakistan on Monday to meet with authorities, relief experts and victims of the floods.

"We are facing a humanitarian disaster in Pakistan of massive proportions," Georgieva told a news conference, adding that the need for international assistance was "massive."

The European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, said it would provide an extra 30 million euros in emergency relief assistance to Pakistan after already giving 40 million euros in aid.

International aid group Oxfam, which had complained that Brussels was "not doing enough," welcomed the new aid and said it hoped it would serve as a "rallying call for those EU countries that have failed to adequately respond to this disaster of an unprecedented scale."

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the EU would continue to help Pakistan "as long as support is needed".

She said in a statement she told UN chief Ban Ki-moon in a telephone conversation, "we are in this for the long term.

"The European Union will work with Pakistan to mitigate the impact of this disaster on Pakistan's economy and social development.

"The international community needs to be ready to support Pakistan in a lasting manner: this will be a significant element for the long-term recovery. A safe, secure, stable and prosperous Pakistan in the interests of the EU and the wider international community as a whole."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy had sent a letter to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Sunday saying that the EU executive should "do more."

Barroso responded in his own letter to Sarkozy that his services were "the first to react" to the disaster in Pakistan.

Georgieva told reporters: "From the very first day, we knew that is going to be a tremendous disaster, we have mobilised to the fullest to deploy and help."

The European aid official expressed frustration about the lack of recognition of the EU assistance and said the 27-nation bloc needed to raise its visibility.

"It breaks my heart that I open newspapers and nowhere I see a recognition that we are the biggest donor in this humanitarian disaster," she said.

Georgieva said she would present in September proposals on how to improve the EU's crisis response, amid calls for Europe to form a rapid reaction scheme for disasters.

The United Nations 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.

Foreign aid began flowing to the 20 million flood victims on Wednesday, but many remained without food or shelter as Islamabad responded slowly to their needs.

Weather forecasts signalled some respite was due with monsoon systems weakening after three weeks of torrential rains brought devastating floods that left at least 1,400 people dead in Pakistan's worst natural disaster.

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Outside View: Pakistani SOS
Washington (UPI) Aug 18, 2010
If Shakespeare were to write a tragedy today, it could well begin: "Alas poor Pakistan. I knew it well." Facing existential economic and security threats, it hardly needed a third, in this case the catastrophic "super flood" that became a massive water sword slashing through Pakistan's underbelly. Estimates are that as many as 20 million of Pakistan's 170 million-180 million citizens co ... read more

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