Tuesday, August 10, 2010

6 million flood victims need aid to survive - UN ready to call for help

The United Nations is launching an appeal to help 13.8 million people hit by one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters after floods paralysed parts of Pakistan and fanned fears of disease.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the disaster had eclipsed the scale of the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan and the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti put together.
About 1.5 million people have been evacuated in the south and 1.5 million hectares of valuable farmland destroyed in central Punjab province while the worst hit has been the northwest, already struggling with Taliban violence.
“We will soon issue an... appeal for several hundred million dollars to respond to immediate needs,” UN chief Ban Ki-moon announced, stressing that medium- and long-term assistance “will be a major and protracted task.”
UN special envoy Jean-Maurice Ripert said hundreds of millions of dollars would be needed to address the urgent humanitarian needs and billions for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of infrastructure and livelihoods.
Parts of the northwestern Swat valley were still cut off Tuesday by road as were parts of the country’s breadbasket in Punjab and Sindh.
“This is a major disaster of enormous magnitude,” said UN emergency relief coordinator John Holmes, who is to launch the appeal in New York on Wednesday along with Pakistani officials for what is likely to be one of the biggest UN relief efforts in history.
UN officials were at pains to stress that aid would focus on six million people who need direct humanitarian assistance in order to survive.
Spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said the figure of 14 million was a broader measure given by Pakistani authorities that included the direct and indirect impact, extending from the homeless to longer-term damage such as crop losses.
She told AFP that the number of victims targeted by the appeal had yet to be finalised.
Byrs said about five million people were targeted by aid in the Indian Ocean tsunami, while the estimated 300,000 homes destroyed in Pakistan rivalled the numbers seen in Haiti’s devastating quake.

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