Pakistan seeks UN help as flood aid for survivors drains
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan is seeking U.N. help in securing long-term aid for survivors of last summer's deadly, record-breaking floods before recovery funds run out next month as a U.K.-based charity on Friday urged donors to step up ahead of the harsh winter.
The grim threshold for Pakistan could come as soon as Jan. 15, according to Chris Kaye, the country director for the World Food Program. Kaye said that without new aid, the looming depletion would mark “a very serious crisis ahead of us as we go into 2023.”
The unprecedented flooding, which experts attribute in part to climate change, erupted in mid June and at one point during the summer deluge, a third of Pakistan's territory was submerged. More than 1,700 people were killed and though the waters started to subside in September, Pakistani officials say 23,000 survivors are still living in tents in flood-hit areas in Sindh province.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari met with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday and conveyed that he is seeking support from the world body to raise money from "key donors, development institutions and the private sector” to refuel the recovery effort.
During the meeting, Guterres “reaffirmed full support and cooperation of the U.N., both for ongoing humanitarian relief work as well as for long-term recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction” in Pakistan’s flood-hit areas, Bhutto-Zardari said.
The two spoke on the sidelines of the ministerial meeting of Group of 77, a coalition of 134 mainly developing nations and China, in New York. Bhutto-Zardari said he also thanked the U.N. chief for agreeing to co-host an international conference on “climate resilient Pakistan” in Geneva early next month.
At a news conference in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on Thursday, Kaye from the WFP and U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Julien Harneis said the number of people in Pakistan in need of critical food assistance is likely to increase from the previously estimated 4 million people to 5.1 million during the winter.
According to U.N. officials in Pakistan, the international body has only received a third of the $816 million in emergency aid it sought in October.
The winter chill is contributing urgency to the crisis, Kaye said. Some of the supply from the WFP was recently looted by flood victims in a water-ravaged area in the district of Khairpur in the southern Sindh province, where the floods have affected 12 million people and killed 796.
“People are desperate and we need to help them," he said.
Meanwhile, the U.K.-based Islamic Relief charity on Friday urged international donors to step up funding for Pakistani flood survivors who are facing a harsh winter in the country's northwest and southwest, where snow has already started falling.
Freezing temperatures this month hit many homeless Pakistani flood survivors who have been forgotten by the world and were living in the open air, Islamic Relief said.
“The humanitarian response to Pakistan’s worst floods in living memory is just 23% funded," said Asif Sherazi, the charity's director in Pakistan. Rural communities urgently need reconstruction of homes and health centers, but in many areas work has barely started due to a lack of funds.
In contrast to the global attention when the floods hit last summer, “now it seems that Pakistan has fallen off the news agenda and people have been forgotten,” Sherazi said.
Islamic Relief has so far delivered aid to more than 870,000 people in Pakistan, Sherazi said, adding that an estimated 100,000 women are about to give birth in flood-affected areas.
“We fear that many pregnant mothers and their newborns could die if they are unable to access maternity healthcare services when needed,” he said.