The Upshot

One-fifth of Pakistan under water as flooding disaster continues

Liz Goodwin
The Upshot

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One-fifth of Pakistan is still under water after three weeks of devastating flooding, and as many as 6 million affected people have not yet received any relief, Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority told CNN.

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon said Sunday from Pakistan that the flood disaster is the worst he's ever seen, characterizing the destruction as more dire than that caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2005 Pakistani earthquake. Ban urged the international community to send more relief funds to the area; the country now has just $93 million of the estimated $460 million needed to provide flood relief.

About one in 10 Pakistanis — 20 million people altogether — have been affected by the flooding, according to estimates from the Pakistani government. About 1,500 people are feared dead, and at least 2 million are homeless, according to U.N. estimates. The country's most populous province, Punjab, was also one of the worst-hit areas. Relief agencies and the government are still tallying damage to millions of acres of farms.

Now, experts worry about disease spreading. Up to 3.5 million children are at risk for dysentery and other diseases caused by drinking dirty water, warned the United Nations. The U.N. is also worried that a cholera epidemic could spread, as a few cases have already been detected and many villages have no health care.

Ban said the recovery may take billions of dollars in the long term, but so far the U.N. is calling for less than half a billion in relief. Fundraising has been sluggish, charities told Dawn News. The country is promised $212 million in committed pledges and another $140 million in uncommitted pledges has been raised, according to ReliefWeb, which tracks relief funds. The United States has led the effort, pledging  more than $70 million.

"These unprecedented floods demand unprecedented assistance," Ban said, according to the U.N. "The flood waves must be matched with waves of global support."

The 2004 tsunami claimed more than 200,000 lives and displaced 2 million people, according to the Heritage Foundation. Donors gave more than $13 billion in aid to help the disaster's victims. In Pakistan's disaster, the death toll right now is relatively low, which may be one reason the international community has been slower to donate.

Flood survivors are angry at being left without relief for weeks. Hundreds of Pakistani flood victims blocked traffic on a major highway today, demanding faster relief and blaming the government for leaving them without aid, Reuters reported. "They are throwing packets of food to us like we are dogs. They are making people fight for these packets," protester Kalu Mangiani told the Associated Press. On Sunday, hundreds of demonstrators in the Punjab province yelled "down with the government," and burned tires, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmoud Qureshi says he worries the flooding may create unwelcome political fallout as well: By displacing populations and destabilizing the basis of the local economy in many settlements, the disaster could be a recruiting boon for insurgents.

"If we do not get the help I am worried," Qureshi  told the BBC. "I am worried because millions would starve. ... People who want to create mischief will get room to step in. And we want to make sure we do not create a vacuum for them to fill."

(Photo at top: AP/ Flooding survivors fight for relief food.)

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