Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi warned of food riots in the country as billions of dollars worth of crops had been destroyed and 1.7 million acres of agriculture land was under water.
Qureshi was addressing a ministerial session of the UN General Assembly on Thursday. He appealed to the world community for help as the challenge “is too big for us.” The Pakistan foreign minister told his audience that 20 million people were affected of which 3.5 million were children. He said that the danger had not ended as things might get worse with the second and third wave of flooding expected in the coming days.
He said that immediate challenge for the government was provision of food and health facilities as well as clean drinking water to the affected areas. Qureshi said that millions of people had migrated to urban centres in the past few weeks and this would put an added burden on the country’s weak infrastructure.
He said that the World Bank and Asian Development Bank had been approached for a comprehensive damage needs assessment. At the same time, Qureshi said that the floods had “hit us hard” and warned that this natural disaster could reverse some of the gains made by the security forces against terrorists in the country.
“These floods may undermine gains made by the government in the war against terrorism,” said the Pakistani FM.
His appeal for help was endorsed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who announced that the US was increasing its assistance to Pakistan by $60 million to a total of $150 million. Clinton warned that things in Pakistan “will get worse before they get any better.”
She said that two million people had been forced to leave their homes and at least 800,000 houses had been affected by the floods. She appealed to the world community to help the Pakistan government in its efforts at relief to flood survivors. “Every dollar counts,” she remarked.
Earlier, UN chief Ban Ki-moon appealed to UN member states to deliver promised aid to help Pakistan recover from unprecedented floods, saying the disaster was a key test of global solidarity.
“Make no mistake: this is a global disaster, a global challenge,” he told a session of the UN General Assembly, adding “It is one of the greatest tests of global solidarity.”
He said that Pakistan was facing a “slow-motion tsunami.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2010.