UN chief calls for more aid to flooded Pakistan

Islamabad, Aug 15 (DPA) UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Sunday called upon the world to step up assistance to Pakistan, where some 20 million people are affected by the country’s worst floods.

‘I am here to urge the world community to speed up assistance to the Pakistani people,’ Ban said after his plane landed at an army airbase near Islamabad.

‘We are trying to mobilise all the necessary assistance, and remember that the whole world is behind the people of Pakistan at this time of trial,’ he added.

The UN has appealed for $460 million to assist millions of refugees displaced by floods that have killed about 1,400 people. But the international response has been slow.

Donors have pledged barely 20 percent of the funds that the UN says are required to supply food, shelter, medicine and clean water to the six million people in immediate need.

Ban was met at Islamabad’s Chaklala Airbase by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

Later on he held separate meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and discussed the flood situation in Pakistan, the damages that might have been caused by the disaster and the assistance the country needs to deal with it.

Ban was also scheduled to fly to the flood affected areas to get first-hand experience of the devastation.

‘I will have an opportunity to see for myself the affected area and I get to share the stories and plights of affected people,’ Ban told reporters at the airbase.

About 20 million people have been left homeless, according to the Pakistani government.

Floods that ravaged large parts of the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and central Pakistan are now submerging more areas in the southern province of Sindh, where hundreds of thousands of people are on the move.

More than 700,000 houses and over 3.2 million hectares of standing crops have been destroyed or damaged, officials said. Ban will hold a joint press conference with Zardari to conclude the day-long visit to Pakistan.

The Pakistani government, the UN and various aid organisations are working day and night to provide food to flood victims, but the numbers of those affected reaches into the millions and the resources at hands are limited.

People in many affected areas are complaining that they are either getting no food or very little.

‘We have received no food for the last two days. Two days ago some good man came here and brought some rice on a donkey cart and distributed here. But that’s all we’ve got over the last two days,’ said Ghafoor Ahmad.

Ahmad has taken refuge on an embankment in the Qasim Bela region of Multan, a city in central Punjab. The surrounding areas of Multan with its 4.5-million-strong population have been submerged by the floods.

There have also been food riots. Desperate and hungry survivors have attacked some aid convoys and ransacked the relief items. The crisis is worsening, especially as the floods swamp more areas and displace thousands more each day.