Nation accepts €4m in aid from feuding neighbour

PAKISTAN has accepted €4 million in aid from India for flood victims, a rare expression of goodwill between the feuding neighbours 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 six million people have been made homeless and the economic cost is expected to run into the billions.

The head of the World Health Organisation in Pakistan said 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 he was “optimistic there was no immediate threat of a cholera epidemic. The United Nations has appealed for €360 million in emergency assistance.

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

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

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

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

The floods began on 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 US 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 €44 million to fund health projects, but less than half had been pledged. However, he said the international response was now growing. The WHO had provided drugs to two million survivors and it had the stocks to reach another four million people in the next three months. But “this is not enough,” he said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Pakistan faced a “slow-motion tsunami” as the flood-ravaged nation stepped up pleas for massive global aid, warning that Islamist militants could exploit the crisis.

Ban told a UN emergency fundraising session in New York the world had a duty to act while millions were still without shelter and a fifth of the country – larger than the island of Ireland – submerged by flood waters. “It is one of the greatest tests of global solidarity,” Ban told the General Assembly meeting.

Although weather forecasters say the monsoon systems are easing off, the fallout from three weeks of devastating floods that have left nearly 1,500 people dead is likely to last for years.

Pakistan and the US have voiced growing fears that extremists may harness the discontent to further destabilise Pakistan’s embattled government, or that unhappiness with relief efforts could fan social unrest.

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