Pakistan suffering reaches epic proportions

UN
aid agencies have said hundreds of thousands of people affected by the floods
in Pakistan have yet to receive aid, adding that the relief operation remains
underfunded.

Officials
say the humanitarian situation there remains one of the most serious they have
ever experienced.

Six
million people are in need of immediate assistance, they add.

Extra
emergency aid funds have been pledged to help more than 20 million people
affected by the disaster.

The
World Food Programme has so far distributed food to less than a million people.
Of an estimated half-a-million families in need of shelter, just 98,000 had
received tents, it said.

Pakistan’s
permanent representative to the UN Office at Geneva has appealed for more
international attention and support for his country, describing the disaster as
unprecedented.

“It
is a catastrophe on a scale which is unparalleled as far as we can tell. Millions
of people have been affected and the area covered is immense – it is about the
size of England,” Zamir Akram said.

Pakistan’s
High Commissioner to the UK said it could take five years and $15 billion for
the country to recover.

The
floods began more than two weeks ago in the mountainous north-west and have
swept south across a quarter of the country, including its agricultural
heartland, leaving some 2,000 people dead.

In
terms of new aid pledges, Australia has said it is offering an extra $21.6 million
and Japan another $10 million. Turkey has said it will double its donation to
$10 million in view of the worsening situation.

State
media in Saudi Arabia said some $20 million had been raised on the first day of
a national campaign for the victims of the floods, while impoverished
Afghanistan is offering $1 million.

But
the UN’s emergency relief operation remains underfunded, with just 36 per cent
of the requested $460 million received so far.

Aid
agencies have also blamed Pakistan’s “image deficit” for the
shortfall, as potential donors fear the funds would be diverted into extremism
in the country.

A
spokeswoman for Care International said the UN had to do more to convince
donors that the money was “not going to go to the hands of the Taliban”.

“The
victims are the mothers, the farmers, and children. But in the past, information
linked to Pakistan has always been linked to Taliban and terrorism,” said
Melanie Brooks.

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