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U.N. Says Nearly 14M Pakistanis Affected By Floods

On Monday the U.N. said that 13.8 million people have been affected by the floods in Pakistan as the death toll has now reached 1,600, Agence France-Presse reports.

“This disaster is worse than the [2004 Indian Ocean] tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and the Haiti earthquake,” Maurizio Giuliano, a spokesperson for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said to the AFP (8/9).

Martin Mogwanja, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Pakistan told reporters on Friday that damage resulting from the floods has “to be measured in terms of hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more than a billion,” CNN reports. “There is going to be a tremendous cost in terms of repairing roads, bridges, telecommunications and electricity infrastructure,” Mogwanja said, adding that repairs to farming infrastructure and irrigation will also add to the cost.

The U.N. is working on a plan aimed at addressing the needs of those affected by the flooding, he said. The emergency response plan aims to “address the most pressing needs in the area of food security, health care, sanitation and shelter” in the next three months, according to Mogwanja. He said that at least 1.5 million people had lost their homes.

CNN continues: “The priorities which have been provided for so far include: 500 metric tons of food from the World Food Programme, clean drinking water from UNICEF to more than 700,000 people, and 40 cholera kits from the World Health Organization to health centers in Pakistan.” According to Mogwanja, “[T]his is only a small fraction of what is required, given the scale of this disaster and also its geographic scope, spreading across the poor, large provinces of the country” (Casanas, 8/7).

U.S. Disaster Response Aid

The U.S. “has sent rescue helicopters, delivered medicines and more than half a million halal meals and water as Pakistan’s fragile government struggles with the worst floods in 80 years,” Reuters reports. In the coming days, disaster response will focus on rescue and the prevention of communicable diseases, such as cholera, according to the news service.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said he hopes U.S. efforts will be well received in Pakistan where the U.S. is often viewed with suspicion. “As the Pakistani people see the tremendous efforts that America is making to provide them with support … they will appreciate the commitment that we have there (in Pakistan),” Shah said. So far, the U.S. has provided $35 million in flood relief, and Shah said more money will be given because more rains are expected (Pleming, 8/7).  

A second Reuters story looks at how the flooding and future aid to the country. “As flood waters rise in Pakistan, so does U.S. concern over the impact of the disaster on an already fragile economy and how Washington’s robust development plan may be slowed down to deal with the crisis,” the news service writes.

“For its part, the Obama administration has its own ambitious non-military aid program in Pakistan, with plans to spend $7.5 billion over the next five years. The State Department has been negotiating for months with the Pakistanis over which projects should be done first, with a major focus on water and boosting electricity as well as agriculture, the backbone of the economy,” Reuters reports. “Some money could be reprogrammed to deal with the current emergency although Washington will be coordinating with other major aid donors when Pakistan’s government has drawn up a full tally of its rebuilding needs.” Shah said, “We can be flexible in being responsive to the needs as articulated by Pakistan … It makes it harder to have large-scale progress when you have these kinds of natural disasters” (Pleming, 8/9).

Health Implications; Aid Appeal

Currently, the “Pakistani government, international and local health groups are stepping up efforts to prevent water-borne diseases from spreading in the country’s flood- affected areas,” Xinhua reports. “Government officials said that medical teams have been dispatched to every district with adequate medicines. They have sprayed pesticides and dispersed lime in the affected areas. But people in the affected areas complained that they have not been given enough and proper medical care,” the news service writes in a story featuring quotes from local responders. The control of water-borne diseases, respiratory infections and treatment of injuries are some of the most pressing health concerns, according to the WHO. It also said ensuring access to health facilities and the availability of female health workers are other priorities (Tahir, 8/8).

IRIN also reports on relief efforts, noting that “[u]nrelenting downpours continue to limit relief efforts and have grounded helicopters in [the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), which is believed to have the most casualties] leaving thousands of people cut off in areas where roads and bridges have been swept away.” The article looks at the disaster response in different areas and compares it to a major earthquake the country faced in 2005 (8/8).

In related news, UNICEF is appealing for $47.3 million to fund relief operations for an estimated 1.4 million children and other affected people, Bernama reports (8/7).

“The UNICEF relief operation will concentrate on the critical areas of water and sanitation, health, nutrition, education and child protection. The largest part of the operation is the provision of water and sanitation systems to head off the outbreak of diseases such as diarrhea and cholera, especially deadly to children. UNICEF is already providing clean drinking water to over half a million people and will bring in emergency food rations and emergency health kits,” according to a press release from the organization. (8/6).