Faced with what could turn out to be one of the worst natural disasters the world has seen in decades, the United Nations (UN) has appealed for $460 million (around Rs.2,160 crore) for flood relief operations in Pakistan.
The floods started on 22 July in the Baluchistan province, fuelled by unprecedented monsoon rains. They soon poured into the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and have now moved south, inundating the densely populated southern provinces of Punjab and Sindh.
Also See Pakistan Floods (PDF)
The damage has been colossal—14 million people displaced (that’s more than the numbers displaced by the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, 2005 South Asian tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake put together), 1,600 people killed, more than 300,000 houses and standing crops of wheat, cotton and sugar destroyed.
The UN appeal comes in the wake of a sluggish international response. Till Wednesday, according to the UN’s financial tracking system, less than $45 million had been committed and $91 million pledged.
But it seems to have had an effect, with the US increasing monetary aid to $55 million from the $35 million it had announced previously. It also announced the deployment of an amphibious ship and increasing the number of US helicopters available for the relief effort.
Pakistan’s close ally China last week pledged another $50,000 from the Chinese Red Cross in addition to an earlier aid package worth $1.48 million.
The supplies, however, need to come in fast. If they don’t, says Sarah Crowe, Unicef’s (United Nations Children’s Fund) regional chief of communications, the death toll due to water-borne diseases and food shortages is likely to rise significantly.
“Pakistan,” she says, “needs urgent help—this is beyond the ability of any government to cope with alone—14 million people cannot wait. Their need is now.”