Pakistan floods ‘heart-wrenching’ – UN chief

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has
described as “heart-wrenching” the destruction he witnessed on a
visit to flood-devastated Pakistan.

Mr Ban said the scale of the disaster
was greater than anything he had seen before.

He again urged the world to speed up aid
to the country, saying shelter and medicine were desperately needed.

The Pakistani government says up to 20
million people have now been affected by the monsoon floods.

At least 1,500 are known to have lost
their lives.

Health experts are warning that the
threat of epidemics in flood-hit areas is growing.

The UN has already confirmed at least
one case of cholera among the victims.

“This has been a heart-wrenching
day for me and for my delegation,” Mr Ban said at a press conference,
stood alongside President Asif Ali Zardari.

“I will never forget the
destruction and suffering I have witnessed today.

“In the past I have seen scenes of
natural disaster around the world, but nothing like this. The scale of this
disaster is so large. So many people in so many places in so much need.”

He announced a further $10m from the
UN’s central emergency response fund, making a total of $27m from the fund so
far, and repeated his calls for the international community to come to
Pakistan’s aid.

“The people of Pakistan need food,
emergency shelters, medicines, clean water,” he said.

“We are all deeply concerned about
the spread of diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases. All our combined
medical capacity will be needed to provide the right drugs and care.”

He said one fifth of Pakistan had been
ravaged by floods.

“The flood waves must be matched
with waves of global support,” he said.

The flooding began more than two weeks
ago in the mountainous north-west of Pakistan and has swept south across a
quarter of the country including its agricultural heartland.

The International Monetary Fund has
warned that the floods could have dire long-term economic consequences for a
country already reliant on foreign aid.

On Wednesday the UN launched a $459m
(£294m) appeal for emergency aid for Pakistan. It said that billions of dollars
would be needed in the long term.

The US has already donated at least $70m
to the country, which is a key regional ally in fighting terrorism.

During his visit, Mr Ban held talks with
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and President Zardari, whose handling of the
crisis has been widely criticised.

In his first public comments since
returning from a much criticised visit to Europe, Mr Zardari defended the
official response.

“The government has responded very responsibly,”
he said, adding that the army, the police and officials were all working to
relieve the suffering.

Mr Zardari described the floods as
“our time of endurance, our time of need”.

“It is a time when the nation will
stand together,” he said.

“I call upon the whole of the
nation, all of Pakistan, indeed I call upon the world to support us and to
listen to the voice of the United Nations to support Pakistan.”

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