ISLAMABAD: After visiting the areas battered in Pakistan’s worst flooding, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he will appeal to the international community to provide more aid to Pakistan as the deluge has wreaked “unprecedented damage”.
Ban addressed a joint news conference with President Asif Zardari after conducting an aerial survey of the flood-hit areas of the country. He also visited relief camps in Muzaffargarh, Kotri, Taunsa and the Kot Addu and Lal Pir power plants.
“The international community may have been slower in its initial response but now international aid effort is being stepped up,” he said. Ban added that the UN’s appeal for $460 million was meant only for the first 90 days and more appeals will be launched to provide for later stages of rehabilitation and reconstruction.
Asked if the international community was not helping as much because it had no confidence in the Pakistani government to ensure transparency, the UN chief said he does not subscribe to such views.
Ban added that there was an urgent need to provide food, water, medicine and shelter to the displaced people. He said the UN is currently providing food and water to one million people and it aims to increase this number to six million.
The UN chief announced another $10 million for Pakistan out of the emergency relief funds. The total UN contribution has now reached to $24 million.
He said UN agencies, the Red Cross and international NGOs were engaged in relief activities but were reaching their limit due to the huge magnitude of the catastrophe. He said he had seen the destruction wrought by the Asian tsunami, the Haitian earthquake, the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan but “what I have seen today is unprecedented. Thousands of villages and towns have been washed away”.
Speaking at the conference, President Zardari thanked the UN secretary- general for visiting Pakistan in its hour of need. He called upon the nation to step up efforts to help the flood-affected people and urged the world to help.
“I can relate to what the flood-affected people are going through because I myself am an farmer and I know what the needs of the people are,” he said
Earlier at a meeting with the UN chief at the President House in Islamabad, Zardari informed him that 71 districts throughout the country had been affected. The extent of total damage to life, property, livestock and infrastructure may be far more than the estimates suggest, he added. In a meeting with Ban Ki-moon, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani urged the UN to send a strong message to the international community, foreign corporate leaders and civil societies to show solidarity with Pakistan and its flood victims in “this hour of need”.
The prime minister said the scale of the disaster is beyond the capacity of his government. And hoped that the meeting of the UN General Assembly on the flood situation in Pakistan on August 19 would serve as a catalyst for mobilisation of international support.
Gilani said the reconstruction phase is likely to take years but Pakistan needs help to immediately repair some of the important bridges to gain access to certain areas.
He appealed to the international community for provision of helicopters, boats and hovercrafts on an urgent basis to help the government in rescue operations and provision of supplies to the affected population in the coming weeks.
Ban said a review of a $459 million flash appeal and response to it will be made within a month after an assessment of Pakistan’s requirements to cope with this situation.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2010.
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