Pakistan thanks world for opening wallets, says flood victims now have global support

By Edith M. Lederer, AP
Friday, August 20, 2010

Pakistan thanks world for opening wallets

UNITED NATIONS — Pakistan thanked the world Friday for opening its wallets and said more than 20 million flood victims now know that nations and people around the globe are standing with them during the worst disaster the country has ever faced.

Wrapping up a hurriedly called two-day meeting of the U.N. General Assembly to spotlight the immediate need for aid, Pakistan’s U.N. Ambassador Abdullah Haroon said the initial outpouring from some 70 countries was “indeed heartening” and “a good beginning,” though he stressed that the country will need much more help in the months and years to come.

At the start of the meeting on Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said donors had given just half of the $460 million the U.N. appealed for to provide food, shelter and clean water for to up to 8 million flood victims over the next three months. He insisted all the money was needed now.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said at the end of Thursday’s session that he was assured the $460 million goal “is going to be easily met,”

But U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes told The Associated Press after Friday’s session ended that the U.N. appeal wasn’t fully funded yet.

“At the moment, we’re about 70 percent funded, about $350 million,” he said. “The situation in the last few days has improved very significantly in terms of funding … I think (the appeal) will be funded soon.”

During the General Assembly meeting, Holmes said, countries also announced contributions directly to the Pakistani government, U.N. agencies and humanitarian organizations.

“My guess is that there’s a couple of hundred million outside the appeal” that will go to helping flood victims, he said.

Aid groups and U.N. officials had worried about a slow response to the flooding, theorizing that donors who have spent heavily on a string of huge disasters in recent years were reluctant to open their wallets yet again.

Haroon thanked the United Nations — especially the U.N. chief, who flew to Pakistan, and General Assembly President Ali Abdessalam Treki, who called the aid meeting — for showing compassion and taking action when others didn’t.

“The message from here to the people of Pakistan is, do not give up hope. It is difficult. It will take time, but we have standing with us the community of the world,” Haroon said.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the United States, already the biggest donor, would contribute an additional $60 million, bringing its total to more than $150 million, and that about $92 million would go into the U.N.’s relief coffers.

The European Union raised its pledge to more than $180 million, and Pakistan’s Qureshi said Saudi Arabia would be giving “$100 million plus.” In addition, Britain said it would double its contribution to nearly $100 million, on top of $25 million in public donations, and Germany raised its aid to $32 million.

Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, had challenged other countries, especially China, Pakistan’s close ally, which was recently crowned as the world’s second largest economy, to “step up to the plate.”

China’s U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong said Friday that immediately after the flooding began, Beijing showed “the profound friendship” between the two countries and people by sending about 80 tons of urgently needed relief supplies worth 10 million yuan ($1.5 million).

He announced that the government has decided to provide an additional 50 million yuan ($7.4 million) worth of humanitarian aid.

Pakistan announced earlier Friday that it will accept $5 million in aid from neighbor and rival India, which Haroon welcomed saying the disaster transcended any differences and the country was grateful for the offer.

India’s U.N. Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri said the $5 million in relief supplies was an initial offer, and the government is ready to do more to assist the relief effort. He said India will also “be privileged” to assist in Pakistan’s medium- and long-term recovery.

On Friday, Iran also announced that it was doubling its contribution from $5 million to $10 million.

Holmes stressed that the the U.N. pledges have to be turned into “real money” to buy food, tents, drugs and water purification tablets and then have to be delivered to those in need — “a huge challenge.” Then, the U.N. will try to get farmers to start planting again and determine “the infrastructure damage and reconstruction cost which will no doubt be in the billions of dollars,” he said.

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