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Hungry flood-hit Pakistanis protest lack of help

World Bank raises Pakistan aid to one billion dollars
Washington (AFP) Sept 1, 2010 - The World Bank raised its emergency funding to Pakistan to one billion dollars on Wednesday to help the nation cope with the massive economic impact of catastrophic monsoon flooding. The hike, an additional 100 million dollars on top of an existing 900 million dollar loan, was announced by World Bank chief Robert Zoellick as he met Pakistan Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh in Washington. Zoellick's statement said the money, which will come from the International Development Association, the World Bank's arm for low-income countries, was for "immediate recovery needs and longer-term reconstruction."

"We need to respond strongly to the crisis at hand, but we need to do it without losing sight of important economic reforms," he said. "This disaster underscores Pakistan's fiscal vulnerability and dependence on foreign aid." Zoellick and Shaikh discussed plans for institutional and governance reforms in Pakistan in the wake of a disaster which has crippled the south Asian nation's economy, the statement said. The World Bank pledged to help Pakistan set up systems for tracking aid flows, and monitoring and evaluating the whole process to tackle waste and corruption.

Torrential monsoon rains have triggered massive floods that have moved steadily from north to south over the past month, engulfing a fifth of the volatile country and affecting 17 million of Pakistan's 167 million people. The floods have left 1,645 people dead and 2,479 injured, according to the latest count, but officials warn that millions are at risk from food shortages and disease. Pakistan's government -- widely painted as corrupt and bogged down in red tape and infighting -- has been derided in domestic media over its response to the floods and has been the focus of angry isolated protests. Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani warned Wednesday that the country faced inflation of up to 20 percent and slower growth because the devastating floods had wiped out crops.
by Staff Writers
Thatta, Pakistan (AFP) Sept 1, 2010
Hundreds of hungry families blocked a highway in Pakistan's flood-hit south on Wednesday, demanding the government provide more food as the UN warned of a "triple threat" to desperate survivors.

The protest came as under-fire Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said the country faced inflation of up to 20 percent and slower economic growth because of the devastating floods, warning of job losses and social unrest.

Up to 500 people from a government-run relief camp in Thatta city, in the worst-affected province of Sindh, blocked the main road between Karachi city and Thatta for three hours calling for the state to provide food and shelter.

"No food or water has been provided to us for the past two days," Mohammad Qasim, a 60-year-old resident of the flooded town of Sujawal, told AFP.

The World Food Programme issued a stark warning of the threat to food supplies after a month of catastrophic flooding that has affected 18 million people, as the deluge flows south on its way to the Arabian Sea.

While the international community has now donated 700 million dollars, domestic anger has been mounting at the civilian government, which has staggered from crisis to crisis in the 30 months since its election.

Gilani said an inflation target of 9.5 percent for 2011 would now likely be in the range of 15-20 percent.

"Inflation is likely to spike significantly in the face of short supply of food due to crops destruction," he told his cabinet in televised remarks.

He said that GDP growth would also lower to 2.5 percent from the predicted 4.5 percent.

"This economic loss will translate into massive job losses and loss of incomes for thousands of families. Consequently, it may have serious social implications," he said.

World Food Programme chief Josette Sheeran has warned that Pakistan faces a triple threat to food supplies -- with seeds, crops and incomes hit -- fanning frustration among the masses already struggling to make ends meet.

The floods have engulfed a fifth of the volatile country of 167 million, with 3.4 million hectares (8.4 million acres) of rich farmland ruined, according to latest UN figures.

Meanwhile, floodwaters flowing south in Sindh province entered the town of Jati and threatened nearby Choohar Jamoli town on the east bank of the swollen Indus.

Senior city official Hadi Bakhsh Kalhoro told AFP that a few thousand people remained trapped in both towns and that power cuts were hindering rescue efforts, though all other towns in the area were now safe.

Pakistani troops and city workers managed to save Thatta from the waters by fixing a breach in river defences on Tuesday, with most of the population of 300,000 now returned home, according to officials.

Sindh is the worst-hit province, with 19 of its 23 districts ravaged as floodwaters have swollen the raging Indus river to 40 times its usual volume.

One million people have been displaced over the past few days alone.

Pakistan's government has confirmed 1,645 people dead and 2,479 injured but officials warn that millions are at risk from food shortages and disease.

In the country's militant-troubled northwest, where Pakistani airstrikes Tuesday killed 55, initial relief efforts were still underway, more than two weeks after torrential rains stopped in the region.

Head of the UN refugee agency's office in Peshawar, Ahmad Warsama, said by next week shelter would be provided for 80,000 people who could still not access their villages after flooded roads and broken bridges cut them off.

Khalid bin Waleed, a Charsadda resident, said that most of the 350 homes in the village were destroyed and no government help was forthcoming.

"Now people are living on the rubble of their houses and those better off are camping on their roofs," Waleed said.

"We have not received any help from the government yet. Only charities are helping people in our area and they are doing a really good job."

British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visited Sindh and met President Asif Ali Zardari, whose unpopularity worsened when the floods began in July and he failed to come home from a European trip.

Clegg -- still mending fences after Prime Minister David Cameron in July accused Pakistan of failing to do enough to rid its territory of terrorists -- promised to send a team of experts to help improve a barrage in Sindh built by British colonialists in 1932.

Britain has donated 64 million pounds (99 million dollars) to flood relief.

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Tensions build as flood-hit Pakistanis flee to the hills
Makli, Pakistan (AFP) Aug 31, 2010
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