US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed that Washington will help Pakistan “in the days and weeks ahead.”
The US has already committed 10 million dollars in aid, for the 3.2 million people affected. “US helicopters have rescued hundreds of people and delivered critical supplies, including hundreds of thousands of halal meals,” the chief US diplomat said.”We’ve sent over boats to help with search and rescue, water purification units to provide clean water for thousands of people, and temporary bridges to replace bridges damaged by the floods,” she told reporters.
Clinton also urged Americans to make ten-dollar aid contributions by using their cell phones to text the word SWAT to the number 50555.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has rushed supplies to help childbirth as well as the health and hygiene of displaced people, particularly pregnant women and infants.
In a statement, the army said it had rescued 60,000 people and that all their officers will donate one day’s salary for the relief and rescue mission.
Meanwhile, the European Commission has committed humanitarian assistance worth €30 million, mostly to support civilians. And the United Nations said it would disburse up to 10 million dollars from an emergency response fund in addition to aid already on the ground.
The United Nations has said that around 980,000 people had lost their homes or been temporarily displaced in the current floods.
Affectees protest relief efforts
Despite official claims of increasing rescue efforts, survivors of the worst floods to have hit Pakistan in living memory, say they have been abandoned by the government.
Several hundred victims shut down one of the country’s main motorways, in an angry protest against government relief efforts. About 200 to 300 people sealed off the motorway between Islamabad and Peshawar for about one and a half hours, blocking traffic in both directions at a point near the town of Charsadda.
In Galabad, a village near Charsadda, survivors lashed out at what they branded government apathy. “They’re shameless. They have no care or love for the people. We’re alive because of self-help and support from the public,” said a survivor, Sher Dad, a retired soldier in the army.
The village, which once had 500 houses, is now totally destroyed. “Government supplies are given to political people who distribute it among their relatives and supporters. Ordinary people are not getting their share, Dad said. We often see helicopters flying overhead but they never land in our area, he added.
In another village near Charsadda, 2,000 people thronged the home of a local politician and said they had only received assistance from local families and not the government. Falak Naz, 28, was visibly shaken.
“I am totally helpless now. I built a small house with a lot of effort. It is destroyed. How will I repair it? Will there be any government help? These questions keep haunting my mind,” he said.
Families that have been displaced to a relief camp from katcha Bunder in Sukkur, said they had to arrange their own food. “They requested us to leave our homes and shift to relief camps, where food and medicines would be supplied, but nothing so far has been given to us,” locals told The Express Tribune.
Meanwhile, the army says that the rescue operation is “almost complete”. In an interview to the BBC, Maj Gen Athar Abbas said the mission had been hampered by the weather, rejecting criticism that the authorities had been slow to respond.
The spokesperson said that 50,000 troops had been drafted in to help in the rescue operation - and had even given out their own rations to villagers. “The rescue operation has almost been completed. Now it is basically relief - a lot of relief camps have come up, the medical aid is there and the soldiers have given their own rations,” he said. AFP (additional input from APP, PPI)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2010.
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