Majority of Pakistani victims without aid
Published 18/08/2010 | 05:00
Only a small fraction of the six million Pakistanis desperate for food and water have received any help it emerged yesterday.
Last night, the UN appealed once more for extra funds amid growing evidence of global donor fatigue in response to the crisis.
With hundreds of villages marooned and roads and bridges cut in half by swollen rivers, food rations and access to clean water have only been provided to around 500,000 flood survivors, the UN revealed.
The UN has warned that up to 3.5 million children are in danger of contracting deadly diseases in a crisis that has disrupted the lives of at least a 10th of Pakistan's 170 million people.
"We have a country which has endemic watery diarrhoea, endemic cholera, endemic upper respiratory infections and we have the conditions for much much expanded problems," UNICEF regional director for south Asia Daniel Toole said.
"We cannot spend pledges. We cannot buy purification tablets, we cannot support Pakistan with pledges. I urge the international community to urgently change pledges into cheques."
Up to 1,600 people have been killed and two million made homeless in Pakistan's worst floods in decades. The UN has reported the first case of cholera, but only a third of the €360m aid needed for initial relief has arrived.
"Only a limited proportion of food and water needs have been met. One of the major reasons for this is funding," UN spokesman Maurizio Giuliano said, adding that the flood's slower progress compared to earthquakes and tsunamis had dampened donor response.
"Floods do not come in 30 seconds. . . but the humanitarian needs are greater than in Haiti."
Public anger has grown in the two weeks of floods, highlighting potential political troubles for President Asif Ali Zardari's unpopular government which is a major US ally in the war against Islamist militancy.
Some Pakistani flood victims blocked highways to demand government help and villagers clashed with baton-wielding police yesterday after opposition leader Nawaz Sharif tried to distribute relief in Sindh.
Hundreds of stick-wielding protesters blocked a main road with rocks outside Muzaffarabad city in Punjab, trying to snatch relief goods from trucks.
"We left our homes with nothing and now we're here with no clothes, no food and our children are living beside the road," said protester Gul Hasan, clutching a large stick, in Karampur in the southern province of Sindh.
Islamic charities, some linked to militant groups, have stepped in to give aid to victims, possibly gaining supporters.
Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said it was dangerous to let the Islamists fill the vacuum.
"If a person is hungry, if a person is thirsty and you provide water, he'll not ask whether you are a moderate or an extremist," Mr Qureshi said. "He'll grab water from you and save himself and his children who were starved. So you have to be aware of this challenge."