15 Aug 2010

UN chief: Pakistan floods ‘heart-wrenching’

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urges foreign donors to speed up the deliver of aid to Pakistan’s flood survivors after describing the crisis as “heart-wrenching”.

A severely malnourished baby is taken to the hospital by her brother in Pakistan's Muzaffargarh district of Punjab. (Reuters)

The UN secretary general told a press conference: “I will never forget the destruction and suffering I have witnessed today.”

He added: “The scale of this disaster is so large. So many people in so many places in so much need.”

And he repeated his call for more aid for Pakistan. “The people of Pakistan need food, emergency shelters, medicines, clean water,” he said.

Earlier, Ban Ki-moon had told reporters: “I am here (…) to see what is going on and what more should be done. And I am here also to urge the world community to speed up their assistance to Pakistani people.”

‘We are just at the beginning of this crisis’
Khassim Djiang of UNHCR told Channel 4 News that what was happening in Pakistan was “a crisis of unprecedented magnitude”.

Speaking to presenter Samira Ahmed, he recalled flying over southern Punjab and seeing entire villages washed away.

“We need airlift capacities. We need trucks. We need supply routes to be open (…) Any sort of aid that will enable us to access this aid to the people would be more than welcome,” he said.

“The resources to deliver those things are there, but we need the cash and the money to pay for those assets.”

Mr Djiang agreed that the situation was worsening day by day, and he warned that the present situation could continue for weeks. He predicted that the crisis would move south from the north west, going to southern Punjad and Sindh.

He concluded: “I think we are just at the beginning of this crisis, so more than ever the international community’s attention is absolutely needed.”

Water bottles arrive in Pakistan.
Stepping up to the plate
On Channel 4 News, Save The Children‘s Mohammed Qazilbash told Samira Ahmed that foreign governments needed to “step up to the plate” in providing assistance to those affected by the disaster.

Estimates say up to 1,600 people have died in the flooding, which has hit an area roughly the size of Italy, and a reported case of cholera in the north west of the country yesterday sparked fears outbreaks of disease could spread.

How to donate
To make a donation to the DEC Pakistan appeal call the 24 hour hotline on 0370 60 60 900, visit http://www.dec.org.uk or donate over the counter at any post office or high street bank, or send a cheque.

You can also donate £5 by texting the word GIVE to 70707.

Some 500,000 tonnes of wheat have been destroyed in the floods. Cotton and sugar crops have also suffered in a country where agriculture is the mainstay of the economy.

Ban Ki-moon has had meetings with President Zardari and the prime minister, Yusuf Gilani. Critics say the government in Pakistan has been slow to respond to the crisis, with victims relying mostly on the military and on foreign aid agencies.

When the flooding started, President Zardari was in the west on a five-day tour of Europe.