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U.N. Launches Largest Humanitarian Appeal To Aid Pakistan Flood Relief

The U.N. on Friday launched an appeal for $2 billion in flood relief for Pakistan, Bloomberg reports. The request is the “largest appeal for humanitarian relief ever made by the world body,” the news service writes (Varner, 9/17).

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the floods in Pakistan are the worst natural disaster the U.N. has dealt with in its 65-year history, VOA News reports. “Simply put, helping the 20 million people affected will be a test of our collective humanity. That is why today we are launching appeal for an additional $1.594 billion … in assistance. Together with the initial appeal, our 12-month response plan amounts to just over $2 billion,” he said (Besheer, 9/17).

The money will be used to fund “483 projects to be carried out by 15 U.N. bodies, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and 156 national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs),” the U.N. News Centre writes. As Ban noted, the appeal “includes the earlier $460 million, launched on 11 August, which is now 80 percent funded, making the unmet requirements for this emergency $1.6 billion,” according to the news service, which adds that funds will be used “for agriculture, camp coordination and management, community restoration, coordination, education, food, health, logistics, nutrition, protection, shelter, and water, sanitation and hygiene.”

“We are seeing the equivalent of a new disaster every few days in Pakistan … Millions of people have lost everything. Our task is to give people the help they need,” said U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos. “No one could have predicted the scale and enormity of this catastrophe where women and children are facing a dangerous downwards spiral of hunger and malnutrition,” World Food Programme Executive Director Josette Sheeran said. “We need to scale-up now, and we need to scale up quickly,” she added.

Before Friday’s appeal, the U.N.’s largest natural disaster appeal was for the Haiti earthquake earlier this year, when almost $1.5 billion was requested, according to the article (9/17).

U.S. Raises Aid Contribution to $345M; U.N. Secretary-General Calls For ‘Urgent’ Global Response At High-Level Ministerial Meeting

In response to the appeal, the U.S. announced it would raise its aid for the disaster to $345 million, Bloomberg reports. “The U.S. is lifting its financial aid by $76 million on top of $269 million pledged to date to assist with relief and recovery efforts, according to an e-mailed statement from the State Department” (Krause-Jackson, 9/19). The U.S. aid “money has gone to relief and early recovery efforts, along with in-kind contributions and the very important rescue work that our American military has done in rescuing 15,000 people and providing 7 million pounds of relief supplies,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said during a U.N. high-level ministerial meeting on the floods in Pakistan, according to a State Department transcript (9/19).  

As he opened the meeting on Sunday in New York, Ban “called for an ‘urgent’ global response to the Pakistan floods,” Agence France-Presse reports.

“The meeting, which brought together … Clinton and about 25 other top ministers, sought extra resources for the stricken country after the United Nations issued a record two billion dollar emergency appeal,” the news service writes.

“We are here because the Pakistan floods are one of the biggest, most complex natural disasters we have faced in the history of the United Nations,” Ban said. “The floods in Pakistan are a global disaster, a global challenge, and a global test of solidarity,” he added. To understand the level of devastation facing Pakistan, the country’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the international community should recall the impact of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina on the U.S. and multiply that by 100.

“Britain on Sunday doubled its aid to about 200 million dollars and the European Union said it has now contributed 315 million dollars,” AFP reports (9/19).

Meanwhile, the pleas for aid have “sparked pressure on the country to reform a tax system that collects very little money, even from the rich,” the Associated Press/Bloomberg Businessweek reports. Despite years of international pressure, Pakistan has one of the lowest effective tax rates in the world, equal to about 9 percent of the value of the country’s economy, according to [a report on Pakistan’s tax system for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace]. In contrast, the U.S. equivalent is more than three times as high at about 28 percent,” the news service notes.

During a recent visit to Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to Pakistan, said, “I don’t want to withhold money they need, but I think we have to be clear that the Congress is going to be reluctant to give money if the money is filling in a gap because people are not paying taxes.”

The article looks at the tax system’s weaknesses and how reforms or a lack of changes could affect aid for the floods (Abbot, 9/17).