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Concern About Slow Pace Of Aid For Pakistan Mounts As U.N. Secures Additional Funds

U.N. officials and aid groups “expressed alarm on Tuesday that the plight of millions of Pakistanis flooded from their land has yet to strike a sufficiently sympathetic nerve among donors – neither governments nor the general public – with aid trickling in far more slowly than needed,” the New York Times reports.

People involved with aid efforts said the relatively low death toll, minimal news coverage, global economic issues, donor fatigue and other factors were contributing to the slow response. In addition, “Pakistan itself suffers from an image problem as a hotbed of Taliban activity and the source of renegade nuclear sales, which can give donors pause,” the newspaper writes. John Holmes, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator, said of the aid money situtation, “What is clear is that we need a lot more and we need it quickly” (MacFarquhar, 8/17).

“The international community has not responded with the speed or on the scale warranted by a crisis of this magnitude,” said Shannon Scribner, senior policy advisor for humanitarian response at Oxfam America, Xinhua reports. “Tsunamis and earthquakes, for example, historically have tended to attract higher levels of funding than slower onset disasters such as droughts and floods,” she said (Rusling, 8/17). The flood’s impact on the lives of more than 15 million people “should be enough to get anybody’s attention,” said International Rescue Committee President George Rupp, the New York Times reports. Rupp noted that his group has received fewer online donations for the flood in Pakistan than it has for other disasters.  

By Tuesday, countries had sent $182 million or almost 40 percent of the U.N.’s request for nearly $460 million in flood aid, according to the newspaper. An additional $43 million has been pledged (8/17). On Wednesday, the U.N. said almost half of the relief funds had been secured, but that only a minority of those affected by the floods were receiving aid because of disaster’s enormity, Reuters reports.

“There has been an improvement in funding. Donors are realizing the scale of the disaster,” U.N. spokesperson Maurizio Giuliano said, adding that “the challenges are absolutely massive and the floods are not over.” Giuliano said, “The size of (the area affected by) this disaster is equivalent to Austria, Switzerland and Belgium combined. That’s pretty scary.” According to the U.N., only 700,000 flood survivors have received food rations and access to clean water (Scrutton, 8/18).

Also Wednesday, the U.N. said the shortage of basic supplies – shelter, food and drinking water – was the biggest challenge for the aid effort, the New York Times reports. The U.N. estimates that about two million people need tents, and so far 935,000 have been received, Giuliano said (Gillani, 8/18).

U.S. Response; Officials Say Funds Won’t Go To Extremist Groups

The State Department and USAID are “encouraging Americans” to donate funds to flood relief efforts, according to the Washington Post’s “Federal Eye” blog, which notes that both agencies “led similar efforts after the Haitian earthquake” (O’Keefe, 8/17).

In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah outlined the U.S. response in Pakistan. “We have non-government organizations, NGOs, that are partners. And we’ve activated those NGOs and those partners to reach hundreds of thousands of people. We’ve spent approximately $76 million so far. We have met the food needs for about 740,000 people through the World Food Program. We’re meeting shelter needs for about 120,000 people by providing plastic sheeting and tenting materials and we’re working aggressively to protect people from the risk of water-borne illness, which in a flood is a tremendous risk,” Shah said. “But, you know, the scale of this disaster is tremendous and it will take weeks to mount an effective both civilian and military, shared response that is up to the task,” he added (Norris, 8/17).

Meanwhile, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said international aid would go to flood survivors in an effort to “reassure international donors that funds to help victims of its devastating flooding will not fall into extremists’ hands,” the BBC reports. “The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, also played down the fears, saying stories that extremists groups were the only organisations involved in relief work in some areas were ‘greatly exaggerated,'” the news service writes (8/18).

News Outlets Examine Aid Effort, Health Effects

IRIN reports on the prospect of some populations being shut out of the aid effort. “The chaotic evacuation of towns and villages in flood affected areas means some vulnerable people have become separated from male family members, putting them at a disadvantage: The elderly, women and children are often unable to reach the bags or parcels being distributed, especially when mobs besiege the aid trucks,” the news service writes. It notes a recent report from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which said aid supplies had been looted in an area in the southwestern part of Punjab Province. The article also looks at aid groups’ efforts to ensure vulnerable groups can access aid (8/17).

“The United Nations has warned that up to 3.5 million children could be in danger of contracting deadly diseases carried through contaminated water and insects in a crisis that has disrupted the lives of at least a tenth of Pakistan’s 170 million people. It’s a long list of growing risks – endemic watery diarrhoea, endemic cholera, endemic upper respiratory infections,” Reuters reports in article examining the health situation on the ground. The article includes accounts of the health situation in two camps (Georgy, 8/18).