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Pakistan Pledges Transparency To Ensure Flood Aid Arrives

  • RFE/RL

Some 20 million Pakistanis have been affected by the flooding.

Some 20 million Pakistanis have been affected by the flooding.

Pakistan is seeking to reassure the international community that donations for the millions of people affected by devastating floods will reach their target.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik says the government is considering calling in independent auditors to show that the money is not being diverted to corrupt officials or Taliban insurgents.

Malik is hoping his assurance will speed the flow of aid to the 20 million Pakistanis who have been affected by the worst flooding ever recorded in their country. So far, international reaction has been muted, with less than half the required sum collected, though a UN spokesman, Maurizio Giuliano, said funding was now picking up as donors realized "the scale of the disaster," which has left 1,600 people dead.

One of those donors reacting is the European Union. The European Commission today announced it is providing immediately an additional $39 million in emergency relief to Pakistan. It said humanitarian aid commissioner Kristina Georgieva will visit the flood zone on August 23.

The UN estimates the size of the flooded area to be as big as Switzerland, Austria, and Belgium combined.
Conditions on the ground are reported to be getting worse, with the UN saying that so far, food rations and clean water have reached only 700,000 survivors.

One of the survivors in Punjab Province, Bibi Zainab, appealed for help.

"Our children are sick. The water even from the hand pump is dirty. You can see by yourself how dirty the area is," she said. "The elders and the children all are drinking this water, which is the cause of many diseases. Please, someone give us clean water. The government should help us."

Continued rain has led to a new, second wave of flood water making its way down the Indus River, adding to the problems of rescue teams. The sheer scale of the disaster is daunting, with the UN estimating the size of the flooded area to be as big as Switzerland, Austria, and Belgium combined.

"Something like 891,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed," Chris Lom, the International Organization for Migration's regional spokesman, told reporters today in Islamabad. "Now, this number is based on the assumption that nearly half of these homes are in Punjab. Now, this is very difficult to confirm at this stage because of the lack of access and because of changing flood levels.

"But if we accept this planning figure, if you like, it would mean that 446,000 households still face a shortfall in emergency shelter."

Even Islamic militants appear stunned by the disaster, insofar as there have been few clashes between insurgents and troops since the flooding.

But The Associated Press today reports that Islamic militants attacked police posts in Pakistan's northwest. Liaqat Ali Khan, Peshawar's police chief, said dozens of militants from the Khyber tribal region, which lies near Peshawar and along the Afghan border, attacked police posts in the Sarband area of Peshawar. The two sides exchanged fire for about an hour before the militants retreated to Khyber, Khan said.

Meanwhile, health authorities are worried about the spread of waterborne diseases.

Daniel Toole, UNICEF's regional director for South Asia, explained the situation on August 17 at a news conference in Islamabad, saying, "We have a country that has endemic watery diarrhea, endemic cholera, endemic upper respiratory infections, and we have the conditions for much, much expanded problems in all of those areas."

Toole said millions of society's more vulnerable members are especially at risk.

"We have women and children at risk, not in the hundreds of thousands but in the millions," Toole said. "Women and children are more vulnerable. They are susceptible to infections and they are living in dreadful conditions."

Adding to the misery is a warning from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization that Pakistan could be facing famine conditions if farmers miss the sowing season, due to start next month.

written by Breffni O'Rourke, with agency reports