ISLAMABAD: As floodwaters swamp more villages and towns in Sindh, the world has doubled its assistance for Pakistan, pledging over $800 million to help deal with the catastrophe, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Sunday.
Qureshi returned from New York on Sunday morning after attending a UN General Assembly session on the country’s floods.
He told a news conference that the response from the international community was overwhelming, as the UN special session, which was originally scheduled for three hours, continued for two days.
He said the UN session was not meant for pledges, yet member states committed an additional $254 million for flood survivors.
“The total aid pledged to Pakistan so far is $815.58 million,” he said, adding that more aid pledges were expected in coming days.
“In these circumstances, when the West is going through a recession, this kind of solidarity for Pakistan, I think is very encouraging,” he said.
Aid flowed relatively slowly to Pakistan in the first weeks of the crisis, apparently because many countries were unaware of the scale of the disaster.
A relatively low death toll — around 1,600 people — may have contributed to misimpressions, Qureshi said. “One of the objectives of my visit to the UN was to sensitise the world about the magnitude of the disaster,” he added.
The foreign minister said Pakistan would need billions of dollars for reconstruction and rehabilitation.
“It is premature to say how much damage the floods have caused so far, but I am sure it would run into billions of dollars,” he said when asked about the economic losses Pakistan suffered due to the worst flooding in history.
About the Indian aid offer, Qureshi said it was a positive gesture. “This is a humanitarian issue. God forbid if India faces the same tragedy, Pakistan will standby New Delhi,” he added. “Modalities of accepting the Indian aid are being worked out.”
The minister said Pakistan was cognizant of the militants taking advantage of the natural disaster. “I told the international community that we should reach out to flood survivors. We have to fulfil their needs … we cannot allow any vacuum to be created there,” he warned.
Qureshi said Pakistan would need consistent and sustained assistance from the international community. A UN ministerial meeting will be held on September 19 to review the flood situation in Pakistan, he said. He maintained the European Union had also planned to hold a meeting on Pakistan floods next month.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2010.
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