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Floods: U.N. Issues $459.7M Appeal For Pakistan, China Concerned About Disease Outbreaks After Mudslides

The U.N. appealed for $459.7 million on Wednesday “to aid flood victims in Pakistan as the magnitude of the disaster widened, with about one-fifth of the country submerged and the annual monsoon season still potent,” the New York Times reports (MacFarquhar, 8/11).

“Make no mistake, this is a major catastrophe,” said John Holmes, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Associated Press reports. “The affected population is estimated to be more than 14 million – almost one-tenth of Pakistan’s population,” he noted. “Before the $459.7 million appeal was launched, the U.N. already had pledges and commitments of more than $150 million but some $300 million is still needed, Holmes said” (Lederer, 8/11).

“The funds requested under the initial floods emergency response plan will be revised within 30 days to reflect assessed needs as the situation evolves,” the U.N. News Centre writes. Holmes noted that the death toll of 1,200 “so far [had] been relatively low compared to other major natural disasters, but the numbers affected are extraordinarily high.” Without quick action, “many more people could die of diseases and food shortages,” he said. Shelter, food, clean water and emergency health care are among the most pressing needs, according to the news service (8/11).

“U.S. deputy ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo said the United States also has provided 400,00 prepackaged meals, 12 prefabricated steel bridges, and U.S. military helicopters which along with the Pakistani military have rescued approximately 2,300 people and transported over 200,000 pounds (90,700 kilograms) of relief supplies,” the AP writes (8/11).

Agence France-Presse also reports on U.S. efforts to help the country deal with the effects of the flood, noting that the U.S. “tripled the number of helicopters” for the relief effort on Wednesday.

President Barack Obama “wants to lean forward in offering help to the Pakistanis,” said U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. “We will work with them (the Pakistanis) and do this at their pace,” Gates added (8/11).

Meanwhile, Reuters reports on how the flooding has damaged the country’s agricultural output. “Floods in Pakistan have destroyed about 500,000 tonnes of wheat, meaning a smaller surplus for the country this year, and also hit sugar and cotton supplies, agriculture officials said on Thursday. Flooding … has also destroyed up to 2 million bales of cotton, industry officials said. Pakistan’s output of refined sugar could also fall by 500,000 tonnes because of damage to the crop from the floods, a farmer association said,” the news service writes (Anthony, 8/12).

The Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) said the floods are the world’s second worst natural disaster that occurred between 2001 and August 2010, IRIN reports. The article looks at other major floods and countries’ preparedness (8/12).

Flooding In China Triggers ‘Massive Landslides’

A northwestern area of China has also been hit with flooding that has triggered “massive landslides” and resulted in 1,117 deaths, the AP/CBC News reports. According to local officials, at least 627 people are still missing.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Zhang Guoxin, vice director of the emergency office of the Health Ministry, said emergency medical rescues were ending and health authorities were focusing on preventing disease outbreaks, Xinhua writes (8/11). “Disinfectant crews sprayed chemicals across the ground amid fears of an outbreak of disease. Most local water sources have been destroyed or are too polluted to use, increasing the risk of typhoid and cholera epidemics. State media reported numerous cases of dysentery but Zhang … said there had been no reports of an epidemic outbreak,” Al Jazeera writes (8/12). “Infected injuries, a lack of sanitation, clean drinking water and accumulating garbage also increased the risk of typhoid, cholera and other diseases,” the AP writes (8/11).

Yang Jian, a senior official with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, discussed the urgent need for clean water. “If we cannot guarantee safe drinking water and a healthy living environment, it is highly risky for infectious disease to occur,” said Yang, IANS/TwoCircles.net reports. The article includes reaction to the situation from other local health officials (8/12).