The United Nations has attributed the sluggish response of donor countries to its emergency appeal for flood assistance in Sindh and Balochistan to real or imagined concerns that the government figures are exaggerated and do not reflect the ground reality.
The UN has informed Islamabad about the less than lukewarm response to the $357 million flood appeal and the reservations that donor countries supposedly have about pledging money and materials.
(Read: Donors skittish as UN launches aid appeal)
Official figures indicate that some eight million people have been affected and 600,000 homes totally destroyed by the flooding.
UN agencies say the rains have destroyed 73 per cent of the two provinces’ crops and 67 per cent of food stocks.
The lethargic response to the $357 million appeal is also put down to issues such as visa restrictions, lack of direct access to beneficiaries and concerns over the lack of accountability, according to a secret diplomatic cable sent last month by Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN in New York.
A copy of the cable dated September 27, 2011 obtained exclusively by The Express Tribune contains minutes of the meeting between Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and UN emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos.
The purpose of the meeting held in New York on September 16 was to determine the status of the UN response to the flood in Pakistan.
Amos, who is undersecretary general for UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), apparently told Khar that the global response to the appeal had been slow, as the agency had received $27 million until then.
Amos pointed out that the donors were not convinced that “the appeal figures of the government reflected exact priorities.”
(Read: No helping hands)
The UN official, according to the cable, spoke of the concerns that donor countries raised such as visa restrictions for aid workers intending to visit the flood-hit areas. She also told the foreign minister that donors had voiced doubts about the lack of accountability for bilateral in-kind assistance received last year and media reports about unutilised money. Concerns raised by donors reflect the low credibility of the PPP-led government in Pakistan.
The diplomatic cable says the foreign minister called for better coordination of UN relief agencies with the authorities in her country. She also emphasised that needs must be prioritised. While there seemed to be clarity at the headquarters level, the OCHA country team’s tendency was to set their own priorities.
The UN relief coordinator said the appeal process was led by the government of Pakistan and therefore, the process of [damage] needs assessment had been identified along with it.
(Read: Desperate times)
In his concluding remarks, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN Abdullah Hussain Haroon suggested to the government to address the concerns of donors.
“In order to seek donor confidence and promote accountability, we may alleviate donor concerns on bilateral in-kind assistance and media reports on unutilised sums [of aid money],” Haroon said.
Despite repeated attempts, the Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua could not be reached for her official reaction.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2011.
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