U.S. boosts aid relief to Pakistani flood victims; U.N. donors meet about funding

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) visited Pakistan on Thursday "to assess the damage and relief efforts" as flooding continues and millions remain in need of humanitarian aid, the New York Times reports. According to the newspaper, Kerry "said the United States would increase its flood aid to $150 million" (Masood/Gall, 8/19). 

Kerry was the "first senior U.S. policymaker" to travel to the country since the flooding began, Agence France-Presse reports. "Kerry, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and co-authored a record 7.5 billion-dollar aid bill for Pakistan, was holding talks with Pakistani leaders and scheduled to visit flood-hit areas on Thursday. He is scheduled to meet President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, after holding talks with army chief General Ashfaq Kayaniy on Wednesday," the news service writes (Jaffry, 8/19).

High-level U.N. donors will meet on Thursday in an effort to get governments "to contribute more to relief efforts in Pakistan, where massive flooding has affected nearly 20 million people but where aid contributions have paled in comparison with previous large-scale disasters," the Washington Post reports.

"The floods have killed about 1,500 people. That toll is far lower than the toll in other recent disasters, including the 2004 tsunami, the earthquake in South Asia in 2005 and the earthquake in Haiti in January. But the floods have left more people in need of food, shelter and other life-saving assistance than those disasters combined," according to the newspaper. "Many analysts have blamed 'disaster fatigue' for the paltry commitment in aid. On Thursday, U.S. and U.N. officials hope to overcome that by emphasizing the dire nature of the situation and pointing out that the problems will linger after the waters recede," the Washington Post writes (Lynch/Witte, 8/19).

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will officially announce the additional flood aid for Pakistan at the U.N. meeting on Thursday, State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley said, AFP reports in a separate story. Clinton will also talk to the U.N. General Assembly about "the humanitarian situation from the floods in Pakistan," Crowley told reporters. "During her visit to New York, Clinton will also meet with both U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Crowley said," according to AFP (8/18). 

Meanwhile, the U.N. said more than four million Pakistanis are homeless due to the flooding, Reuters reports. The U.N. previously estimated that two million people had lost their homes. The U.N. also revised its estimate of the number of flood survivors who need urgent humanitarian attention. "Since it's an evolving situation, things are unfolding. Our estimate has gone up and now eight million are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance," said Maurizio Giuliano, a U.N. humanitarian operations spokesman (Haider, 8/19).

UNICEF said it is experiencing significant funding shortfalls that are endangering its humanitarian projects in Pakistan, Bernama reports (Majid, 8/18). "UNICEF is extremely concerned at the lack of funds for its water and sanitation operation, with millions of children at risk from water-borne diseases," a press release from the organization states (8/17).

"We urgently need to scale up the distribution of water. If we're not able to do so because of lack of funding, water-borne diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea and dysentery will spread and begin killing affected populations, especially children, already weak and vulnerable to disease and malnutrition," said Martin Mogwanja, the agency's representative in Pakistan, according to Bernama (8/18).

Asian Development Bank Announces $2B Emergency Loan Package, $3M Grant

"The Asian Development Bank [ADB] has announced a $2 billion emergency loan package to help Pakistan tackle massive flood devastation," RTTNews reports (8/19).

The money will be used to rebuild medical facilities, farm structures, housing and other infrastructure that was damaged by the flooding, the bank said in a statement, AFP reports. ADB also "said it had approved a three-million-dollar grant from its Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund for immediate relief assistance," the news service notes. "The extent of human suffering caused by the floods cannot be easily quantified, nor can the damage wrought upon the country's physical and social infrastructure," said Juan Miranda, ADB's chief for central and west Asia (8/19).

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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