ISLAMABAD // The flow of international aid for Pakistan's 21 million flood victims has slowed to a trickle as the true picture of the devastation is emerging, the United Nations' humanitarian chief said yesterday. The global agency has received US$307 million (Dh1.1billion) in aid from donors in 70 countries. But donations have slowed, with only $20m donated over the past two weeks, leaving the UN one third short of its initial $460m target, said Valerie Amos, the UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordinator. The UN will launch a renewed appeal for a "substantially higher" amount of donations on September 17 .
"We have to make a case to donors for the need for increased funding. We have to show them how their donations have been spent," said Ms Amos, who served as Britain's ambassador to Australia before taking up the UN job. "We also have to make a case to the public across the world that we need to support the affected people of Pakistan, many of whom were already among the poorest before the floods."
The United Nations said more than 10 million people had been without shelter for the past six weeks because of Pakistan's floods. It said that the two-week drought in international aid had coincided with the spread of the floodwater in southern Sindh province, submerging an area of more than 27,000 square kilometres, causing destruction to half a million homes and affecting 6.9 million people in the province.
"It is both worrying and disappointing that this is happening when the needs continue to rise and the suffering is still so evident," Ms Amos said. "We have to make sure the donors appreciate and understand the scale of this." Arriving in Pakistan on Monday, her first day on the job, Ms Amos spent the next two days touring the flooded areas to get a first-hand view of the situation. She called it one of the biggest humanitarian catastrophes in recent history. "The crisis in Sindh province alone is bigger than anything most countries have faced," she said.
The UN official held a meeting yesterday with Yousaf Raza Gilani, the prime minister, and the heads of Pakistan's ministry of foreign affairs and national disaster management authority. "We talked about the scale of the response, access for humanitarian workers and the Pakistani government's proposals to give money to every affected household," Ms Amos said. The government had vowed in August to distribute 20,000 rupees (Dh857) as compensation to each affected family before Eid al Fitr. It plans to launch a debit card-based scheme in Sindh and central Punjab province after Eid. Household heads would be given debit cards with 20,000 rupees in credit that can be withdrawn from automated teller machines. A similar scheme was used to compensate Swat Valley residents displaced last year by fighting with the Taliban.
Ms Amos expressed particular concern over the findings of a UN survey made public yesterday that the floods had affected three million children below five years of age, and 1.6 million pregnant women and nursing mothers. The survey said children under five were more vulnerable to acute malnutrition in emergency situations, while pregnant and lactating women needed additional food for themselves and their babies.
Young children were suffering because of the loss of privacy for nursing mothers rendered homeless by the floods, with about half of the mothers saying they had reduced breast feeding and 15 per cent had stopped altogether. She also expressed worry over the risk of cholera and malaria outbreaks because of the lack of access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities. A study published by the global agency this week said tree in every four affected households had no access to safe drinking water, while more than four in five had no access to sanitation facilities.
Ms Amos pointed to the hundreds of relief camps that have sprung up in Sindh in recent days, most of which lack proper management or facilities. "We have to scale up. There is no doubt about it," she said. "If you don't deliver on that, we will have a health crisis." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org