South Asia

More aid pledged for flood-hit Pakistan

A woman cries in her flood-ruined home in Pir Sabaq in north-west Pakistan on 18 August, 2010
Image caption The UN says aid has reached only a fraction of those in need

More aid pledges for Pakistan have come through after complaints that the international community's response to the devastating floods was inadequate.

The European Union promised an extra $39m following higher commitments from Australia and Japan, while the Islamic Development Bank pledged $11.2m.

The UN has said it has now raised nearly half of the $460m (£295m) it needs for initial relief efforts.

Meanwhile new flood warnings have been issued in some areas of Pakistan.

Pakistani authorities say as many as 20 million people are affected by the floods. The UN says six million desperately need emergency aid but most still have not received it. Tens of thousands of villages remain under water.

There are growing health concerns for those surviving without proper shelter, food or clean drinking water, three weeks after the country's worst natural disaster began.

Survivors have criticised the speed of the government's response to the disaster. There are also increasing reports of flood victims staging protests to demand help from the government.

'Two disasters'

Announcing the increase in aid, EU international aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said Pakistan was now facing "two disasters in one".

Satellite map showing the Indus River on 17 August 2010 Satellite map showing the Indus River on 18 August 2009

"In the northern part of the country... [the] internally displaced population has already been devastated by conflicts and they are now hit very hard again by the flash floods; this is where most of the loss of life has occurred.

"In the southern lowlands where the floods have expanded - especially in the last days - and where the country relies on agricultural land to feed its people, poor rural and vulnerable populations are affected by the slow but steady rise of the water."

The EU's announcement brings the total promised by the group to 70m euros ($90m), and does not include money donated by individual member states.

The pledge from the Islamic Development Bank came at a meeting of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference on Wednesday.

The group called on the "international community in general and Islamic world in particular... to provide urgent material and financial aid to Pakistan".

The UK's International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, visiting north-west Pakistan, announced new support from the UK worth $22.6m (£14.5m), bringing the government's contribution to $48.5m.

He said he felt Pakistani relief teams were doing well in getting supplies to many of the victims, but criticised the international community for being slow to tackle the crisis.

In the latest announcements of aid donations, Australia said it was offering an extra $21.6m, and Japan another $10m. Turkey has said it will double its donation to $10m.

Saudi Arabians donated $20.5m on the first day of a national fund-raising campaign on Tuesday, while the government has already pledged $100m in aid.

Canada was expected to announce at a UN emergency session on Thursday in New York that it would match every dollar donated by citizens. This comes on top of the $32m already pledged by the government.

Famine fear

In Pakistan, the government has sought to reassure international donors that funds to help victims of its devastating flooding will not fall into the hands of extremists.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik told the BBC the Taliban would not be allowed to take advantage of the crisis to increase its support.

Image caption Pakistani officials say it could take years for the country to recover

Mr Malik said he was satisfied that the government had coped with the initial response but that it had been overwhelmed by the scale of the crisis.

"What happened was never expected. In the history of the whole sub-continent there was never such a disaster," he said.

Even as aid becomes the primary focus, there have been warnings of fresh flooding in some of Pakistan's provinces.

A series of towns in north-west Sindh, close to the border with Baluchistan, have been placed on high alert. Rising floodwaters, carried by the River Indus, are travelling south and are expected to hit the region soon.

UN officials say the floods are now covering an area the size of England. At least 1,600 people have been killed, with health officials warning the toll could rise as water-borne diseases spread.

Aid agencies say six million people are in need of immediate assistance but many have received no aid at all.

The distribution of supplies has been hampered by severe damage to the country's infrastructure, with roads and bridges washed away or blocked by landslides.

The UN has been struggling to raise the money it says is urgently needed for the immediate relief effort.

Spokesman Maurizio Giuliano told Reuters news agency there had been "an improvement" in donations, but added: "The challenges are absolutely massive and the floods are not over."

Unicef, the UN's children's fund, called for "an urgent effort" from donors, saying it needs $2m per day to provide clean water supplies.

As well as buildings, large areas of crops and farmland have been washed away, leading to fears of food insecurity in the future.

"If immediate steps are not taken, we fear a famine," said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, a provincial information minister in north-west Pakistan.

"The farmers have lost everything: their crops, their machines, their houses, their seeds."

The World Bank has said it is redirecting $900m in existing loans to Pakistan to flood relief and recovery.

However, Pakistani officials have said it could take five years and up to $15bn for the country to recover.

BBC Urdu will transmit six daily bulletins in Urdu and Pashto providing vital information including how to stay safe, avoid disease and access aid. Special programmes will be broadcast each day in Urdu at 12.30, 15.30 and 18.30 and in Pashto at 12.45, 15.45 and 18.45 (local times).

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