U.S. Government Mobilizes Support for Flood Ravaged Pakistan
“These are dark days.” That is the assessment of Pakistan’s cricket captain, Salman Butt, as his country continues to grapple with the floods that have become the worst natural disaster in its history.
The United Nations estimates that the impact of the flooding, which stretches from the Himalaya mountains down to the Arabian Sea, is now larger than the combined effects of the three worst natural disasters to strike in the past decade.
The floods have already affected more than 20 million people, more than the combined total impacted by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
In response to the devastation, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced an additional $60 million in U.S. assistance for Pakistan at the August 19 Special Plenary session of the U.N. General Assembly. This brings total U.S. assistance to $150 million, approximately $92 million of which is allocated to the U.N. Emergency Flood Response Plan. In addition, relief and rescue operations by U.S. aircraft, in partnership with the Pakistani military, have evacuated more than 6,000 people and delivered over one million pounds of relief supplies.
Secretary Clinton noted that while the initial response by the international community “has helped to alleviate suffering and save lives” the hard fact is that “the combined efforts so far pale against the magnitude of the challenge.”
With experts predicting that the flooding will not recede until mid-September, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has called the disaster a “slow motion tsunami.”
Secretary Clinton underscored that assessment, saying: “It is difficult to overstate the scope of this catastrophe and unfortunately we believe it is likely to get worse before it gets better. More than 800,000 homes have already been damaged or destroyed. Two million people have been forced to flee. Hundreds of bridges have been washed away, cutting off communities from relief supplies. As the foreign minister said, so much of this year’s agricultural production has been wiped out, and farmers’ submerged fields cannot be re-planted this season. And many communities face shortages of clean drinking water and are vulnerable to cholera and other epidemics.”
On August 11, the U.N. issued a $459 million Emergency Flood Response Plan for Pakistan and asked for the international community’s support. A week later, existing pledges of assistance only reached halfway toward that goal.
Secretary Clinton has called for greater assistance, urging the American public and American corporations to support relief efforts and contribute to the Department of State’s Pakistan Relief Fund.
She also underscored the importance of sustaining a long-term commitment to Pakistan stating, “Beyond our immediate response, the United States is committed to the long-term goal of working with Pakistan to improve conditions in the country. We demonstrated that commitment with the multi-year, $7.5 billion non-military assistance package authorized by the Congress and agreed to by the President. We will now take some of those funds that were directed to initiatives that I announced just last month in Islamabad to support Pakistan in its reconstruction efforts.”