As flood waters spread, international aid for Pakistan tops $800M, foreign minister says

International donors have pledged more than $800 million to help Pakistan deal with severe flooding after the U.N. appealed for $460 million in aid, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the country's foreign minister, said on Sunday, the Associated Press reports. "The total commitments and pledges that Pakistan has got so far are $815.58 million," Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad. "In these circumstances, when the West and Europe and America are going through a recession ... this kind of solidarity for Pakistan, I think, is very encouraging," he said (Khan, 8/22).

"Government officials said Sunday that floods have ravaged at least four districts in Sindh province, including urban areas, forcing about 200,000 people to flee to higher ground. Dozens of villages have been marooned by the swollen Indus river, which breached dykes in Hyderabad and Thatta districts on Sunday," the Wall Street Journal reports.

Saleh Farooqui, director general of the disaster-management body in southern Sindh province, said, "We have diverted our resources for rescue operations to the south." In the southern part of Punjab province, "waters have receded ... and people have started returning to their villages," the newspaper writes. "Pakistani and international aid groups estimate that millions of dollars will be needed to help some nine million people displaced by the flood. Most have lost everything and must restart their lives from scratch," according to the Wall Street Journal (Hussain, 8/23).

"Pakistan can ill afford the crisis," the AP notes, citing the country's economic situation. International Monetary Fund [IMF] representatives will meet with Pakistani leaders "this week to discuss the floods and what the country must do to cope" (8/22).

While waters rise in the south, U.N. spokesperson Maurizio Giuliano said the flooding has left millions hungry, Reuters reports. "We cannot talk about starvation yet but I think we can talk about millions of people being hungry," Giuliano said. "I think we have millions of people who are hungry, and hunger is clearly a factor that contributes significantly to vulnerability," he added. According to the news service, the flood has been "spreading through the rice-growing belt in southern Sindh province," which is "home to Pakistan's biggest city and commercial centre Karachi." Until now, "the floods have affected mostly rural areas and far smaller urban centres" (Birsel, 8/23).

Meanwhile, Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon, Pakistan's U.N. envoy, told the General Assembly on Friday that the actual number of people killed as a result of the floods is still unknown because major parts of the country are inaccessible, Reuters writes.

Haroon said the official death toll is around 1,500, but more people might have perished. "We don't yet know how many are dead and how many have perished," he said. "We can only hold our breath and hope that the casualty figures have been fewer" (Charbonneau, 8/20).

Also on Friday, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake "called on the global donor community to continue to provide 'urgent' assistance to the most vulnerable Pakistanis affected by the recent deadly floods," Xinhua/ reports. The effect of the flooding on women and children "has reached tragic proportions," Lake said (8/21). "The consequences of the flooding for Pakistan's poorest and most vulnerable people are very serious. And the most vulnerable of all, the children, are at the greatest risk. Unless the world responds immediately, more and more of the 3.5 million children affected by the floods will be at risk of contracting deadly water-borne diseases like dysentery, diarrhea and cholera," Lake said in the statement (8/20).

News Outlets Report On Flood-Related Health Issues, Future Impacts
The Associated Press of Pakistan reports that Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani "has called a meeting [for] Tuesday (Aug 24) to review the prevailing health situation and emerging health concerns in the flood affected areas." The meeting will look at plans to prevent and manage infectious disease outbreaks and ensure the availability of essential health services, including those for maternal and child health (8/21).

CNN reports on the current disease situation on the ground, noting that for "almost a million Pakistanis, the misery of epic flooding covering one-fifth of the country has now taken the form of communicable illnesses."

The WHO on Sunday said there are more than 204,000 cases of acute diarrhea in the country. "The number of skin diseases - such as scabies - has topped 263,300. More than 204,600 Pakistanis have reported acute respiratory infections as filthy waters surround homeless flood victims, WHO said. Thousands have cases of suspected malaria," according to CNN. Destruction or damage to more than 200 health facilities has complicated the situation and reduced the amount of available health care, according to the WHO. "The depth of suffering is incalculable as risks escalate of diarrhea, acute respiratory infection, malaria and other communicable diseases," said the WHO's Guido Sabatinelli. "It is crucial that all humanitarian health providers, local and national, coordinate their relief efforts closely to save lives, reduce suffering and deliver the most effective response," he added (8/23).

Sabatinelli appeared alongside a Pakistani Naval representative and locals to discuss the health situation on PBS' NewsHour after the first cholera death was reported on Friday (Woodruff, 8/20).

Nature News looks at how efforts to divert flood water to irrigation canals are overburdening the canals, "threatening the infrastructure that will be crucial to the country's recovery." According to the article, "[w]ithout adequate irrigation, severe food shortages will become even more likely over the coming months." The story includes quotes from a British engineering consultant and a World Food Programme official (Larkin, 8/20).

IRIN looks at how Pakistan's grain output could affect world food prices. Experts interviewed include: Abdolreza Abbassian, secretary of the Intergovernmental Group on Grains at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); Liliana Balbi, a senior economist at the FAO Global Information and Early Warning System; and Abid Suleri, head of the Islamabad-based Sustainable Development Policy Institute (8/20).

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from 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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