Monday 27 March 2017

EU doubles aid to Pakistan as charities fight to stop famine

One-year-old Naeema, who has a heart condition, lies asleep at her mother's feet at a college converted into emergency shelter in Charsadda, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province
One-year-old Naeema, who has a heart condition, lies asleep at her mother's feet at a college converted into emergency shelter in Charsadda, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province

Ernest Goldman in Islamabad

The EU has almost doubled its assistance to Pakistan to €70m and announced a trip by its top aid official after calls for Brussels to do more.

In Brussels yesterday Kristalina Georgieva, European humanitarian aid commissioner, said she would travel to the affected areas of Pakistan on Monday to meet with authorities, relief experts and victims of the floods.

"We are facing a humanitarian disaster in Pakistan of massive proportions," Georgieva told a news conference, adding that the need for international assistance was "massive."

The commission, the bloc's executive arm, said it would provide an extra €30m in emergency relief assistance to Pakistan after already giving €40m in aid.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent a letter to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Sunday also saying that the EU executive should "do more."

Mr Barroso responded in his own letter to Sarkozy that his services were "the first to react" to the disaster in Pakistan.

Ms Georgieva said: "From the very first day, we knew it was going to be a tremendous disaster, we have mobilised to the fullest to deploy and help."

The European aid official expressed frustration about the lack of recognition of the EU assistance and said the 27-nation bloc needed to raise its visibility.

Disaster

"It breaks my heart that I open newspapers and nowhere I see a recognition that we are the biggest donor in this humanitarian disaster," she said.

Ms Georgieva said she would present in September proposals on how to improve the EU's crisis response, amid calls for Europe to form a rapid reaction scheme for disasters.

The United Nations last week launched an immediate appeal for $460m, and said yesterday that funding had reached 54.5pc of this target, though that included pledges yet to turn into cash.

But the aid can hardly arrive soon enough. Yesterday flood victims mobbed relief lorries carrying food and authorities in the north west warned of famine unless the region's farmers received immediate help to plant new crops.

The floods began three weeks ago but there is little sign conditions are improving for some 20 million people -- one in nine Pakistanis -- who are affected.

Tens of thousands of villages remain under water and officials fear more flooding could be on the way.

The already shaky and unpopular government has been sorely tested by the disaster, which is complicating the US-backed campaign against Islamist militants.

The international community is rushing water, medicine, shelter and aid workers to the country, but aid groups and governments have complained that the response has been too slow and, so far, not generous enough.

Irish Independent

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