At UN, governments to push for Pakistan flood aid


New York : High-ranking government officials were to make a strong pitch at the UN Thursday for greater contributions to assist the victims of Pakistan’s unprecedented floods that have affected more than 13 million people.

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Officials were to address the UN General Assembly in a hastily convened session to discuss the widespread destruction caused by monsoon rain-swollen floods. At least six to eight million Pakistanis, including 3.5 million children, desperately need immediate relief.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton led the list of speakers in the afternoon session of the 192-nation assembly. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was to open the discussion with his own experiences in Pakistan last week.

Nearly 40 government officials were to address the assembly. They include officials from Belgium, Denmark, Canada, Turkey, Sweden, Ireland, Britain, Germany, Japan, Norway, the Netherlands, Italy and several Arab countries.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said Thursday that she discussed the EU’s contribution with Ban. She said Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere will deliver a message of support on behalf of the EU.

The EU will increase its assistance to Pakistan by 30 million euro, to reach 105 million euro ($135 million), Ashton said.

“I stressed that the EU will continue to support this work as long as support is needed,” Ashton said. “I told him we are in this for the long term. The European Union will work with Pakistan to mitigate the impact of this disaster on Pakistan’s economy and social development.”

The UN said the international response has been positive to the needs of the Pakistanis, but more funds and resources are needed as the floods will not recede soon, fed by the rain that will continue for another four weeks.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the funding response for the floods has improved, but that the efforts must be sustained in the days and weeks ahead in order to find resources to reach people who desperately need help, according to UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.

“OCHA says the scale of response is still not commensurate with the scale of disaster of almost unprecedented magnitude,” UN Nesirky said.

OCHA said deaths from water-borne diseases can still be prevented if the resources needed are obtained immediately to counter the floods.

Pakistan has said that more than 1,600 have died in the floods.

The UN last week launched an emergency appeal for $460 million for Pakistan and planned to review the state of funding within 30 days.

John Holmes, the UN undersecretary general for OCHA, said Wednesday that donors have significantly stepped up their contributions over the last few days.

“Watching this disaster unfold, the world increasingly understands its immense magnitude,” Holmes said. “I am glad that we now see a more positive response to the calls of the secretary general and the humanitarian community for increased and faster funding.”

OCHA said it has received $227.8 million of the $460 million it was seeking, representing 49.6 percent of requirements requested by the Pakistan Initial Floods Emergency Response Plan (PIFERP). It said pledges for an additional $42.1 dollars have also been made, increasing the figure to 58.7 percent.