Pakistan needs more aid - UN

2010-09-02 14:26

Thatta - Relief efforts in flood-ravaged Pakistan are being stretched by the "unprecedented scale" of the disaster, with the flow of international aid almost at a standstill, the United Nations (UN) said on Thursday.

Thousands remain trapped by floodwaters in the hardest-hit southern province of Sindh, while others are complaining of going without food or water for days and some are being forced to live in the rubble of their ruined homes.

Although the initially slow pace of aid had improved since a visit by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in mid-August, the UN said it had "almost stalled" since the beginning of last week, rising from $274m to $291m - about two thirds of funding needs.

The deluge has engulfed an area the size of England, affecting more than 18 million people, including eight million who are dependent on aid handouts to survive.

"Given the number of those in need, this is a humanitarian operation of unprecedented scale," Manuel Bessler, head of the UN's co-ordination agency OCHA, said in a statement.

"We need to reach at least eight million people, from the Karakoram Mountain Range in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south."

Triple threat to food supplies

The floods have ruined 3.6 million hectares of rich farmland and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said farmers urgently needed seeds to plant for next year's crops.

The World Food Programme has warned that Pakistan faces a triple threat to food supplies - with seeds, crops and incomes hit.

Pakistan's ambassador to the UN Abdullah Hussain Haroon on Thursday called for an investigation into claims that wealthy landowners diverted flood waters towards villages to protect their crops.

"It is suggested in some areas, those to be protected were allowed, had allowed, levies to be burst on opposite sides to take the water away. If that is happening the government should be enquiring," Haroon told the BBC's HardTalk programme.

In southern Pakistan, hundreds of hungry and desperate families from a relief camp in the city of Thatta blocked the highway to Karachi for three hours on Wednesday, demanding the government provide more 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, said.

Economic losses

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, whose government has come under fire for its handling of the country's worst ever humanitarian crisis, said on Wednesday the flooding had caused economic losses of $43bn.

He said Pakistan faced inflation of up to 20% and slower economic growth, warning of job losses and social unrest.

World Bank chief Robert Zoellick announced an extra $100m to add to an existing $900m loan as he met Pakistan's Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh in Washington on Wednesday.

Zoellick said he and Shaikh discussed plans for institutional and governance reforms in Pakistan in the wake of the disaster.

The World Bank pledged to help Pakistan set up systems for tracking aid flows and monitoring the process to tackle waste and corruption.

Floodwaters moving south through Sindh province are now 28km from the Arabian Sea, officials said, and will likely take another week to flow away.

But the waters have already reached the town of Jati and are threatening nearby Choohar Jamoli town, the last two sizeable human populations under threat on the east bank of the swollen Indus.

Sindh worst-hit

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

One million people have been displaced over the past few days alone, while the government's official death toll from the floods has reached 1 760.

Initial relief efforts are still underway in the country's militant-troubled northwest, nearly two weeks after torrential rains stopped in the region.

The head of the UN refugee agency in Peshawar, the main city in the northwest, said shelter would be provided by next week for 80 000 people cut off from their villages by flooded roads and damaged bridges.

Khalid bin Waleed, a resident of Charsadda, said most of the 350 homes in the village had been 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, adding that his village had so far had no help from the government.