V.P. Biden pledges to 'sustain long-term' aid for Pakistan; U.S. concerned about aid branding

Vice President Joe Biden and British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg recently said the U.S. and Britain would provide "'sustained long-term' support to Pakistani flood victims," Agence France-Presse reports.

Biden and Clegg "said their governments were 'committed to ensuring the most effective possible international response to Pakistan's ongoing flood disaster'" as well as support "beyond the immediate humanitarian needs." They added, "[s]tability in Pakistan ... is vital for the stability of the region and for security in the wider world" (9/24).

"Concerned that U.S. help to Pakistan is not getting enough recognition, Washington is making a new push to get international aid groups it funds to advertise the fact. But it is meeting resistance from partners worried U.S. branding could prompt Taliban attacks," the Associated Press/Seattle Times reports.

"U.S. officials have said they are only focused on saving lives," but Richard Holbrooke, the special envoy to Pakistan, recently "expressed concern ... that the U.S. wasn't getting enough credit for its assistance," according to the news service. "Holbrooke and other senior officials have raised concerns that groups receiving U.S. funding in Pakistan are not branding their assistance with the USAID logo as required. Groups are exempt from this requirement when operating in Pakistan's militant-infested tribal region along the Afghan border but must get a specific waiver to forgo U.S. branding elsewhere in the country." Groups in Pakistan that receive U.S. money are concerned that branding the aid could cause militant Islamic groups to target them, according to the article.

USAID said its current branding policy was first instituted in 2004 "when delivering assistance to Indonesia after the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami and saw favorable perceptions of the U.S. nearly double in the country," the AP writes. USAID sent a notice reminding them about the branding requirements after Holbrooke's recent visit to Pakistan, according to the agency. The agency "also appears to be taking a harder line on granting [branding] waivers outside the tribal areas." The story includes quotes from Ahmed Khan, World Vision's procurement officer; Robert Wilson, the Pakistan director for USAID; and an unidentified representative from a "large international aid group" that was denied a branding waiver (Abbot, 9/25).

News Outlets Examine Health Situation, Aid Response On The Ground

Reuters reports on aid delivery on the ground where millions of flood survivors "are desperate for money to rebuild their houses. ... Authorities have promised to pay 100,000 Pakistani rupees ($1,165) in compensation to each displaced family, but the need for the cash-strapped government to raise much of the billions of dollars for reconstruction will put the nation under strain for years." The government has said first compensation installments of 20,000 rupees will be distributed by the end of the month, according to the news service (Haider, 9/23).

PBS NewsHour also reports from Pakistan: "People in these villages have been marooned for sometimes up to three weeks, surrounded by a sea of water. This is their first airdrop. You can really understand why they're so desperate. Only the hurricane-force downdraft keeps the hungry at bay, as they surge towards the huge helicopter hovering 20 feet off the ground, unable to touch down. It's still too marshy below. These isolated villages probably ran out of supplies weeks ago. They have no idea when the next drop is going to come" (Miller, 9/24).

A Lancet World Report article takes a closer look at the unique challenges facing the flood response effort, which has been slow to receive international support: "In the early stages of the flooding, the international community did not seem to comprehend the seriousness of the problem. After Ban Ki-moon's visit, pledges began to arrive from governments and international organisations such as the World Bank. But the past few weeks have seen things slow down" (Burki, 9/25)

BMJ looks at how the floods have affected the health of Pakistani children. "The floods have left vast swathes of people living in tent cities, relying on aid and handouts ... They are now struggling to cope with lack of food and disease," BMJ writes. "However, doctors have warned that the real catastrophe is moving much slower than the flood waters: more than 100,000 children under the age of 5 years are at risk of dying in the next six months from severe malnutrition."

The article cites a Sept. 20 report from the Pakistan Health Cluster - which represents the Ministry of Health, the WHO and several aid agencies - warning that there is an urgent need to prevent further health crises. "It says that diseases such as malaria and diarrhoea are starting to spread widely and that there has been a marked rise in the number of cases of infant malnutrition," BMJ writes, adding that the latest WHO figures show that between 30 percent and 50 percent of children who go health clinics have been displaying signs of acute malnutrition (Mooney, 9/24).

To improve the health situation for flood survivors and ensure survival, UNICEF, the WHO, the World Food Program and the U.N. Population Fund "have developed a combined strategy focusing on the areas of food, health, nutrition, and water and sanitation," the U.N. News Centre writes. "The so-called 'Survival Strategy' seeks to ensure a more integrated, effective and timely response to address the key factors contributing to diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections, malaria, measles, cholera and malnutrition, as well as maternal and neo-natal mortality and morbidity," the article states (9/24).

"The floodwater has now receded in many parts of the country, but millions of people are still waiting for life-saving aid. According to some estimates, 8 million people are still without access to clean drinking water. 10 million people are left without any form of shelter, and the risk of a mass outbreak of water-borne diseases remains alarmingly high," according to a Lancet World Report article examining the ongoing effort to address the issues posed by the floods (Solberg, 9/25).

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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