Pakistani foreign minister says his country accepts $5m in aid from India to help flood relief

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pakistan accepts Indian aid for flood relief

ISLAMABAD — Islamabad has accepted $5 million in aid from India for flood victims, a rare expression of goodwill between the feuding neighbors at a time when Pakistan is reeling from one of its worst ever natural disasters.

The floods have affected about one-fifth of Pakistan’s territory, straining its civilian government as it also struggles against al-Qaida and Taliban violence. At least 6 million people have been made homeless and the economic cost is expected to run into the billions.

The head of the World Health Organization in Pakistan said Friday that there had been “sporadic cases” of cholera among 20 million people affected by the disaster, many of them living in crowded and unsanitary conditions.

But Guido Sabatinelli told reporters that “I am optimistic that there is no immediate threat of a cholera epidemic.”

The United Nations has appealed for $460 million in emergency assistance.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told Indian NDTV television station that the government had accepted the money from India. Such is the difficult relationship the two nations have that it took several days for Islamabad to reach the decision.

“It is highly appreciated in Pakistan and we have recognized it,” he said in New York.

India’s foreign office Friday welcomed the decision to accept the aid, Press Trust of India reported, adding the government was willing to provide more assistance.

India also provided aid to Pakistan after the 2006 Kashmir earthquake that killed more than 70,000 people.

The floods began July 29 in the northwest of the country after exceptionally heavy monsoon rains and have since swamped thousands of towns and villages in Punjab and Sindh provinces. While rainfall has lessened, flooding is continuing in parts of Sindh province as water from the north courses down the Indus and other rivers.

Local aid groups, the Pakistani and U.S. armies and international aid agencies have helped hundreds of thousands of people with food, shelter, water and medical care, but the distribution has been chaotic and has not come close to reaching everyone.

Sabatinelli urged the world to extend generous financial assistance to Pakistan to ensure health facilities for survivors.

He said the WHO had sought $56 million to fund health projects, but less than half has been pledged. However, he said the international response was now growing.

“We are receiving some good pledges but we cannot buy drugs with pledges, and we need to convert them into cheques,” he told a news conference in Islamabad.

He said the WHO had provided drugs to 2 million survivors and it had the stocks to reach another 4 million people in the next three months.

But “this is not enough,” he said.

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