UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an “urgent” global response to the Pakistan floods on Sunday as he opened an international ministerial meeting on the disaster.
The meeting, which brought together US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and about 25 other top ministers, sought extra resources for the stricken country after the UN issued a record US$2 billion emergency appeal.
Clinton said that the US has now allotted about US$340 million in disaster relief to Pakistan. Britain on Sunday doubled its aid to about US$200 million and the EU said it has now contributed US$315 million.
Iran said it has now set aside US$100 million, China and other countries also announced new financial contributions and emergency food aid, but it was unclear whether it would all add up to the US$2 billion requested.
“We are here because the Pakistan floods are one of the biggest, most complex natural disasters we have faced in the history of the United Nations,” Ban told the meeting.
Torrential rain started falling in northern Pakistan in late July and the floods have since been moving slowly south, wiping out villages and farmland. Ban highlighted that it had affected an estimated 20 million people, with up to 12 million needing urgent humanitarian assistance.
The UN asked for US$460 million last month but has been forced to quadruple the figure because of the scope of the disaster.
“This new appeal extends the emergency relief to six months and includes the crucial element of early recovery for the next 12 months. I call for your urgent response,” the UN chief said.
“The floods in Pakistan are a global disaster, a global challenge and a global test of solidarity,” he said. “Of course, we know this is happening in a part of the world where stability and prosperity are profoundly in the world’s interests.”
A special analysis on the impact of the floods is to be prepared for the middle of next month and the Pakistani government and UN agencies will then outline new long-term plans to rebuild the stricken area.
However, Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmad, head of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, told the meeting that the country had only 20 percent of the food and 20 percent of the water needed for the stricken 20 million people.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the world community should multiply the impact of Hurricane Katrina in the US in 2005 by 100 times to understand the scope of the devastation.
Clinton said the US has already provided about US$345 million in governmental assistance, through cash, emergency relief supplies and rescue work.
She highlighted the role that Pakistan must play however in becoming self-sufficient and raising more money for reconstruction at home and the need for “transparency” in the use of aid.
British Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell announced his country would add £70 million (US$109 million) to its existing £64 million in emergency aid taking the total to about US$200 million dollars.
“Aid so far has focused on keeping people alive. We need to continue to focus hard on the public health dangers, which remain extremely serious. But we also now need to start helping people to get back on their feet,” Mitchell said.