Pakistan gets flak for refusing help for cyclone relief


Karachi : Pakistan has refused a UN offer for relief and rescue operations in cyclone hit areas in Sindh and Balochistan saying the situation is "under control". But the UN says the worst is yet to come and "people need it".

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An official of the United Nations Resident Coordinator Office (UNRCO), Pakistan, told The News: "Authorities here in Pakistan often do so, but as soon as they realise that the situation is out of their control, they start yelling for the UN and international community's support."

"It is a common routine which I have been observing for the last 11 years. Authorities in Pakistan initially want to hide the humanitarian suffering from the international community and the media. They did the same after the October 2005 earthquake but later they became highly dependent on civil society and international relief agencies," the official was quoted as saying Friday.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has turned down UN's offer saying the situation was "under control" and currently no external assistance, either from the UN agencies or the international community, was required.

The UNRCO official, who did not want to be named, said his office was in constant touch with the Pakistan government through the NDMA.

"As per our own information, the suffering of people in the cyclone and rain-hit areas of Thatta and Badin are intensifying with each passing day," he claimed.

Close to a million people have been affected by the flash floods and Cyclone Yemyin. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz is scheduled to visit Turbat, one of the worst affected areas Friday.

A social worker belonging to SAFWCO, an NGO that works in the disaster-hit coastal areas of Sindh, echoed the UN official and said the authorities "often turn down international agencies' relief and rescue offers but when the situation goes out of control, they start sending SOS messages".

Provincial authorities in Balochistan are also expressing their inability to deal with the devastating rains and flash floods and calling for help, the newspaper said.

A spokesperson for the Balochistan government, Abdul Raziq Bugti, said the situation was beyond the control of the provincial authorities and they desperately needed the support of relief agencies.

It was similar in Sindh with district authorities in Badin and Thatta calling for more support from the provincial and the federal authorities, as according to them, there were several hundred people in the far-flung areas who could not be reached due to scarcity of resources.

The people in the affected areas have criticised the authorities for not doing enough to protect their lives and properties from the cyclone. According to them, relief camps established by district authorities lacked basic facilities like food, clean drinking water and medicines.