WASHINGTON: US Senator John Kerry will visit Pakistan next week to survey relief operations after major floods in a bid to show US commitment and raise public awareness to drum up donations, an official said Thursday.
Kerry, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and co-authored last year's $7.5 billion aid bill for Pakistan, will be the first senior US policymaker to visit since the disaster that affected up to 20 million people.
"This will be a critical visit to help raise the profile among publics both in the US and internationally," said Dan Feldman, the US deputy special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Details of the trip were to be announced later.
Pakistan has been a leading US priority due to concerns over Islamic extremism in the nuclear-armed nation. Since the floods, the United States has offered $76 million in aid and sent helicopters to assist relief. But Feldman said that private charity has been held back by a lack international media coverage and donor fatigue, although the Pakistani-American community has raised $5.5 million .
"When we've approached many businesses, their own charitable giving has been relatively tapped out due to the Haiti relief, due to the global financial situation, due to the lack of media attention," Feldman told reporters.
A US text-messaging donation campaign has raised some $12,000 for Pakistani flood victims, compared with more than $30 million for Haiti's earthquake earlier this year, according to State Department figures. Haiti's earthquake killed at least 250,000 people, far more than the Pakistani floods, although US officials point out that more people are affected in Pakistan.
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