Pakistan Flood News: Muslim states vow $1bn Pakistan aid
- Muslim states vow $1bn Pakistan aid
OIC pledge comes as rising waters threaten densely populated areas in Sindh province.
Muslim countries and organisations have pledged nearly $1bn in cash and supplies to relief efforts for flood victims in Pakistan, the head of a group of Islamic states has said.
"They [Muslim countries and organisations] have shown that they are one of the largest contributors of assistance both in kind and cash," Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, head of the 57-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said in Islamabad on Sunday.
The aid pledges come from OIC institutions and telethons held in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, he said.
Ihsanoglu did not provide a breakdown of the pledges or say how much of the money would go to the Pakistani government versus non-governmental organisations.
Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan's prime minister, criticised donations made to foreign NGOs rather than the Pakistani government, saying the money would be wasted.
"Eighty per cent of the aid will not come to you directly," he said on Sunday, referring to Pakistani citizens.
"It will come through their NGOs, and they will eat half of it," he said.
The Pakistani government has been criticised for not doing enough to help the 17 million people who have been significantly affected by the floods.
Flooding, which began about a month ago after exceptionally heavy monsoon rains pounded the country's northwest, has spread down the country towards the coast, inundating agricultural land and damaging or destroying more than 1.2 million homes.
An estimate 72,000 children are at risk of dying from malnutrition if more immediate aid is not provide the worst-hit areas.
"We are very concerned that, with more recent flooding in the south and nearly a million displaced in recent days, the challenges that are already there are continuing to grow," Stacey Winston, spokesperson for UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told Al Jazeera on Monday.
"More aid and funding is coming in, but we still need more. There is more flooding, more misery and more challenges, but we are trying, as fast as we can, to reach as many as we can."
More than 1,500 people have been killed and eight million others are in need of emergency assistance across the country.
"We don't have any form of shelter and are desperate for food and water, not to mention food, tents or any other facility," Mohammed Usman, a labourer who fled the city of Sujawal several days ago, said.
Floodwaters have finally begun to recede around the city of Thatta, which has been under threat for several days. Most of the city's 300,000 people have already fled.
"The breach near Thatta has been half-plugged, and fortunately the flood has also changed its course and is moving away from the city and its populated areas," said Hadi Bakhsh Kalhoro, a city official.
Pakistan's meteorological department said the waters around the nearby Kotri barrage were receding, but warned that a danger of flooding would remain for several more days.
Thousands flee south Pakistan city
People seek higher ground as troops and civilians struggle to protect city of Thatta from flood waters of the Indus.
Last Modified: 30 Aug 2010 10:01
More than 175,000 people have fled Pakistan's southern city of Thatta, leaving it virtually empty, as flood waters threatened to submerge the city's outskirts.
Troops and civilians were struggling on Sunday to protect the city after floodwaters broke through levees on the Indus.
"The water is still two kilometres away from Thatta where the armed forces and the local administrative workers are working on war footing to save the city," Hadi Bakhsh Kalhoro, a senior city official told the AFP news agency.
"The army brought a maximum of resources to try to fill up the breach. Almost all the people have left Thatta to safer places, all shops and schools are closed," he said.
Thousands of people sought shelter on the high ground of a historic cemetery outside Thatta and others headed to nearby towns and cities.
Many were angered by lack of help, and on Saturday, a number of villagers blocked the main road in protest against the government, saying they had not received any food or assistance.
Lakano Barani, a resident from Thatta, blamed officials for not taking the necessary steps to prevent the third levee from breaking.
"Nothing was done and now it is too late. If they [the government] had taken action, then the historic city of Thatta could have been saved," he told Al Jazeera.
"The government has not told the people where to go or what to do. It is the most incapable government I have ever seen."
About 17 million people have been significantly affected by the floods and about 1.2 million homes have been destroyed or badly damaged, according to the United Nations.
More than 1,500 people have been killed.
The UN, the Pakistani army and a host of local and international relief groups have been rushing aid workers, medicine, food and water to the affected regions, but are unable to reach many people.
More than eight million people are in need of emergency assistance across the country.
"We are very concerned that, with more recent flooding in the south and nearly a million displaced in recent days, the challenges that are already there are continuing to grow," Stacey Winston, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told Al Jazeera.
"More aid and funding is coming in, but we still need more. There is more flooding, more misery and more challenges. We are trying, as fast as we can, to reach as many as we can," she said.
One million flee south Pakistan
Displaced residents of Sindh province evacuate homes as floods sweep southward.
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2010 12:09
Pakistan floods: people return home to find nothing left, nothing at all
The monsoon deluge turned mud houses in north-west Pakistan into a sodden mess
Sirajuddin stares at the shallow muddy pool of water. He had come to salvage whatever he could from his home. There is nothing, nothing at all.
"This was our house," said 30-year-old Sirajuddin, pointing to the pool.
Before the great flood came at the end of July there were some 120 homes in the village of Drab Korona, in Charsadda district in north-west Pakistan. Today, only a mosque, two schools and the odd brick wall of other buildings have survived. The rest of the buildings were made mostly of mud. A torrent of freezing cold water, which eventually went roof-high, had come in the dead of night and by the next afternoon, almost everything was washed away.
The province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was the first hit by the monsoon deluge. While further south in the country, the floods continue to the eat up more land, in the north-west the waters have receded, removing the danger of drowning but leaving behind the threat of disease and a destitute population. Pakistan's federal flood commission has reported that 178,484 homes were destroyed or damaged in this province alone.
With the flood waters gone, Drab Korona looks like a muddy refuse site, a jumble of battered remains encased in thick sludge. Strewn around are broken furniture, trucks, rafters that had been used to support houses … evidence that homes once stood here.
Sirajuddin had lived here with his wife and four children, and the families of his two brothers, in a three-room mud home set in a modest compound. That had gone and there was a just a trace of his all-important wheat store, where some ruined grain was lying in a heap.
They had bought the house six years ago for 140,000 rupees (£1,080), with money loaned and gifted from relatives. Before the floods, Sirajuddin used to make 4,000 rupees to 5,000 rupees (£31 to £38) a month as a labourer.
"We don't have anything now, even to feed ourselves, so how can we remake this house?" said Sirajuddin, who is living in a tent in another part of Charsadda district. "Our relatives are giving us food but how long can they do that?"
Under a baking sun in sapping humidity, the village air is heavy with the gut-churning smell of rotting flesh, a stench that seems to come in waves. Most of the buffalos and other animals were drowned. Their carcasses lie putrefying somewhere under the slushy mess. Villagers who have returned to search for belongings complain of skin problems. The stagnant water and animal remains have turned Drab Korona into a breeding ground for germs.
A few metres away, Aman Gul, an 18-year-old dressed in a dark vest and traditional baggy trousers, had come to retrieve what he could. Both his home and his father's village shop were washed away. It was a four-room mud house, which had been home to 17 people, including his grandparents. He had managed to find an electric fan and some duvets that were stored in a trunk. A bed, deposited on a pile of mud, marked the spot where the shop had stood.
In the hurry to get away on the morning of the flood, in water that was already neck high, two of Gul's aunts, his mother's sisters, had drowned. They had each been holding a child when the current took them away. Gul's father managed to save the children. One of the aunts, Shahnaz, was carrying the family's savings, 45,000 rupees (£350) in cash and 25 grams of gold. They found her body six days later, though there was no sign of valuables. In all, seven people from the village died.
"Only two of us can work in this family, my father and me," said Gul, who has a job on a building site across the border in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, where he makes 250 rupees a day (£2). "If we can get some money together, we will make one room, so at least we can live in our own place."
Gul's family are now living in a tent in a camp that has sprung up on the main Nowshera Road nearby, alongside the Flying Craft paper mill, a largely defunct factory that once used to provide much employment to the village. A dozen or so people are crowded into each tent there, on an exposed sitethat appears to receive little or no help from the authorities or aid organisations. There, they rely on the charity of townsfolk, who arrive by car with supplies of food to hand out, these days in the late afternoon before the breaking of the fast. Despite the calamity, all the adults in the camp are observing Ramadan. The north-west is a deeply religious region of the country.
Next to Drab Korona, the adjacent village of Fakirabad Majoki had been a marginally more prosperous settlement of about 1,000 houses, set on higher ground, where many of the homes were made from brick. But, to save money, locals had used mud rather than cement to bind the bricks, which simply dissolved in the flood, leaving mounds where walls had once stood, as if an earthquake had struck. Unlike, Drab Korona, now a wasteland, a few of the residents have drifted back to Fakirabad Majoki. A dozen old men knelt in prayer at the village mosque, which survived.
Farman Ali's home has a surviving, but badly bowed, compound wall. But inside, the rooms are gone. He's pitched a tent on his plot, where he and his seven children now live. It is better than sleeping on the side of the main road, where they had been staying. Over the last 25 years, Ali had slowly converted the original mud-built rooms into brick. Earlier this year, he took early retirement from a lowly job at the state electricity company. Now, the home is wiped out and has hasn't started to receive his pension.
"We got out when the water had reached over our heads," said Ali. "At least we're alive. How we'll live, I don't know. We have faith in God. He will do something. Send some angel perhaps."
Amid the fatalism of some, there is also burning anger, at the authorities, in particular the provincial government which is run by the secular Awami National Party. Charsadda district was the party's base but in Fakirabad Majoki, residents spat expletives at the ANP, praising instead the mildly Islamist party of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, which they said had come to their aid or at least shown concern.
"The ANP is not here, it doesn't exist for us," said Hameedullah, a 55-year-old villager. "Asfandyar [Wali Khan, the ANP leader] hasn't come here, even to his own area. If I saw him, I would become a suicide bomber against him myself."
According to a senior official in the Charsadda administration, Kamran Rehman Khan, the floods affected 74,000 families in the district, roughly 500,000 people, with 54,000 of those families now housed in schools or tents.
"The whole catastrophe is overwhelming," said Khan. "Whatever we do, is not enough."
The flooding began at the end of July, in the mountains of the north of Pakistan, caused by very heavy monsoon rain, with the flood waters moving southwards since then, inundating new areas of the southern province of Sindh this week.
• Pakistan estimates that 2.5%, or nearly $5bn, will be wiped off expected growth this year as a result of the floods. Growth will also be hit next year. Infrastructure damage will also have an adverse effect on GDP
• Some economists believe the inflation rate could spike to 25% in the short term
• President Asif Zardari says recovery will take at least three years
• Population affected: approximately 20 million in more than 11,000 villages
• Area affected: 100,000 sq km – almost the size of England
• Cultivated land affected: 2.6m acres. The floods have destroyed an estimated 23% of the current national crop, including much of the cotton crop, which is Pakistan's major export driver
• Deaths: 1,539
• Houses damaged or destroyed: 1.2m
• Agriculture lost: 200bn rupee (£1.5bn)
• International aid pledged so far: $815m (£527m)
Pakistan recovery 'to take years'
Begging the world with 'no shame'
The situation is still critical in Pakistan as the floods now leave a trail of destruction in the southern province of Sindh and inundate parts of the country’s impoverished Baluchistan province, where the people are still waiting for assistance.
Their plight has been eclipsed by the horrendous scale of destruction in the country’s breadbasket province of Punjab and by the fact that the north was also badly hit - from Gilgit Baltistan down to the southern belt of the frontier.
According to some estimates, the area hit by the floods is equal to the size of Italy. In the short term, this means that a major undertaking is needed to restore communications links and replenish wheat stocks to avoid a famine-like situation. It may take years to restore farmlands and repair the damage caused by the floods.
The authorities will also have to look into its antiquated canal systems and think seriously of building run-of-the-river dams to be able to regulate the flow of the waters more effectively and, above all, to improve its embankments for its major canals that have over the years become less effective with the deposit of silt.
It would also have to move rapidly to stop the destruction of its forests, which have been depleting at an alarming rate because of the collusion of the timber mafia and Pakistan’s feudal political elite.
Pakistan floods are a 'slow-motion tsunami' - Ban Ki-moon
UN general secretary urges countries to send more money, quicker as monsoon rains worsen flooding
The United Nations general secretary, Ban Ki-moon, has appealed for swifter aid to provide immediate relief in food, shelter and clean water for the millions affected by the worst monsoon rains on record.
"Make no mistake, this is a global disaster," Ban told a hurriedly convened session of the UN general assembly. "Pakistan is facing a slow-motion tsunami. Its destructive powers will accumulate and grow with time," he warned.
Weather forecasts have said there could be four more weeks of rain, which will add to the flood problems.
The UN has appealed for $460m (£295m) in aid and donors have so far given about half that figure. But the secretary-general said all of the money was needed immediately to help victims over the next three months.
The US has pledged an extra $60m in help, bringing America's total aid to $150m.
In a video message, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton appealed to the American public to donate generously to a newly established "Pakistan relief fund".
"The enormity of this crisis is hard to fathom, the rain continues to fall and the extent of the devastation is still difficult to gauge," said Clinton. "Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones, those who have been displaced from their homes and those left without food and water."
The US special representative for Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, said "many billions" would be needed to respond to the flooding. Speaking at the Asia Society in New York, he called on other countries, such as China, to step up to the plate and said: "The water has affected everyone, It's an equal opportunity disaster, and military operations have effectively faded away."
The British government yesterday pledged to double its emergency payments, raising its pledge to £64.3m.
Last weekend, one of the UK's funds for disasters – the CERF – was included in a list of items sent by DFID's director of policy to international development secretary Andrew Mitchell as possibly expendable. His department insists the list was only a speculative part of due process, since the department, like all others, is expected to consider value for money, despite DFID being ringfenced from cuts.
But tonight Mitchell, who has recently visited Pakistan to inspect the effect British aid has had so far, told the UN general assembly in New York that the international community had to do more. He told the UN it was "deeply depressing" that the international community was "only now waking up to the true scale of this disaster".
Mitchell will meet other development secretaries and push them to give more. He emphasised funding would only be allocated to NGOs and UN agencies which could prove they were helping people get back on their feet.
He highlighted a fund that would give farmers new seed to plant new crops to replace those destroyed by the floods as a project the UK would back.
He said: "I've come to New York directly from Pakistan, where I saw the dire need for more help. I saw the sheer and shocking magnitude of this catastrophe. It is clear that unless more aid is delivered now, many more people will die from disease and malnutrition. The UK is already helping more than three million people in flood-affected areas." This doubling of our aid should now provide water and sanitation to 500,000 people; shelter to 170,000 people; help meet the nutritional needs of 380,000 people and provide enough health services to cover a population of 2.4 million people."
UN appeals for more Pakistan aid
Pakistan floods: Saudi Arabia pledges $100m
Oil-rich country overtakes US as main aid donor as second wave of flooding hits new areas in southern provinces
Heroes and heartbreak in Pakistan's flood waters
By Imran Khan in
on August 16th, 2010.
They say a week is a long time in politics.
Well in Pakistan that's certainly true ... but instead of a change in political fortune, Pakistan's government is just getting, to use a word common in South London, hammered.
The government's critics mount a chorus. Sometimes it feels like a million voices, all in condemnation, fight to be heard.
In the interest of good journalism, I will tell you the government line.
"We are trying our hardest."
Nowhere is the government's inability to cope with this disaster more visible than in the interior of Sindh, in Pakistan's south.
The sun blazes high in the noon sky, only highlighting the misery faced by people.
All around me I am surrounded by a sea of lives wrecked by flooding.
Everywhere I turn, someone, male or female, young and old, holds out their hand and asks for help.
I feel pathetic. Like a man who has been given a front row seat to the world's biggest misery.
You see, I can't offer immediate help. I come not with a truck full of aid, medical supplies, food or water.
I cannot diagnose the mysterious rashes that have appeared on the skins of children so young they can barely open their eyes.
I only have a camera. I know the argument, that by shining a light into the most darkest places a camera can spur governments into action.
But when a child tugs on your hand, asking for help, that reasoning goes out the window.
I feel like a wretch. I can only be in awe of men like Hamir Soomro. He is of Shikarpur. A self described son of the soil.
For days now, in the absence of government help, he has been fundraising, organising food drops, buying up as many tents as he can find and getting aid to those that need it the most.
"We have to do this, no one else is," he says.
Like I say, I am in awe of him.
He comes from the biggest landowning family in the area. He picks up the phone and gently coaxes money from his friends and family.
In turn, others flock to him to lend a hand. It's quite a sight.
Rehaan is another volunteer doling out aid. I ask him where his government is? He takes a deep breath, looks around and offers a few words.
"You tell me. They are nowhere," he says.
I have covered countless tragedies across the world. Bombings in Afghanistan, the plight of Palestinians, the aftermath of mass suicide attacks in London, and of course Pakistan.
But the sheer scale of this has shocked me. I am not alone.
Hamir perhaps puts it best. "We are in an incredible situation, these are life changing times, for us all," he says.
"For the poor who will be made further destitute, and for us who are fortunate to survive."
As we speak, men wade through water that's chest high. I can see flood waters as far as the eye can see.
More rain is expected.
Cholera confirmed in Pakistani flood disaster
Pakistan floods: 3.5 million children at risk from deadly diseases, says UN
Shortage of clean water raises health fears as fresh protests erupt over slow delivery of aid
Pakistan's Sindh faces more floods
City of Hyderabad threatened as water levels in Kotri barrage rise amid continuing rains.
The soul of the 'Land of the Pure'
Victims display the endurance that characterises Pakistanis, says Robert Grenier.
Robert Grenier Last Modified: 17 Aug 2010 10:05
It is the sheer scale of the devastation that leaves one speechless. As one surveys the overhead photos of vast lowland plains inundated with swirling brown water or stares at the upland images of mighty torrents washing away roads, bridges, entire villages, it is the utter scope of the disaster which almost defies comprehension, which far outstrips the power of words to convey.
Only the flint-hearted could be left unmoved by this. The heart aches for Pakistan.
But it is only in the photos of the people that one begins to grasp the full dimension of what is happening and, through that prism, to gain a glimpse into the soul of the Land of the Pure.
One hears the stories of building frustration, of bitter complaints against a government so often indifferent in the best of times, and simply unequal to the challenge in these, the worst of times.
But this is not what I see in the photographs, in the images of entire families clinging to trucks to gain higher ground, of people stranded on roof-tops or on the raised strips of highways, of those isolated and forlorn, reaching for a bottle of clean water or a packet of sodden food dropped from a helicopter.
In these images one looks in vain for signs of hysteria, or for righteous indignation. What one sees instead is what one always sees in Pakistanis - endurance: Simple, often noble, endurance.
I have lived some years among Pakistanis. I cannot claim to have done them much good. Instead, my preoccupations have been those which animate the game of nations. I have served a great power which hunts its enemies, pursues its interests, and tries to meet what it sees as its responsibilities in distant places, far from home. I make no apology for this; neither do I expect great credit.
But one cannot travel among the Pakistanis, as I have been privileged to do, without developing a great admiration for their decency and their dignity.
I have found the mass of Pakistanis to be honest, hard-working, devoted to their faith and to their families, hospitable and generous almost to a fault, and devoted to the defence of right as God has given them to see it. But more than anything else, I have come to admire their capacity for endurance.