The United Nations appeared to have met its target of €358m in immediate aid for flood-stricken Pakistan today, after Ireland, the US and other nations dramatically upped their pledges.
The flooding in Pakistan is being described as a "slow motion tsunami".
Yesterday, Ireland told the UN it is to boosts its aid package by an additional €1.2m.
The rush of promised help came after UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, addressing a hastily-called meeting of the General Assembly, urged governments and people to be even more generous than they were in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and this year’s Haiti earthquake.
Mr Ban said the floods were a bigger “global disaster” with Pakistan’s government now saying more than 20 million people needed shelter, food and clean water.
“This disaster is like few the world has ever seen,” Mr Ban told the meeting. “It requires a response to match. Pakistan needs a flood of support.”
Before the meeting, donors had given only half the sum the UN had appealed for to provide food, shelter and clean water to up to eight million flood victims over the next three months.
But Mr Ban said all the money was needed now – and much more would be needed later.
After listening to speeches by top-level representatives of around 20 countries, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said he was assured that the €358m goal “is going to be easily met”, including “100 million dollars plus ” from Saudi Arabia.
Aid groups and UN officials had worried about a slow response to the flooding, believing donors who spent heavily on a string of huge disasters in recent years were reluctant to open their wallets yet again.
Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, told reporters before the meeting that he believed that where the tsunami and Haiti catastrophes happened suddenly, “for about 10 days people didn’t realise that this wasn’t just another flood”.
Yesterday, after visiting flood areas with Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari, US senator John Kerry warned of extremists who might “exploit the misery of others for political or ideological purpose, and so it is important for all of us to work overtime”.
Mr Zardari spoke of militants who might take orphaned children “and train them as the terrorists of tomorrow”.
Mr Holbrooke said it was impossible to assess whether al Qaida or others were taking advantage of the floods because “we can’t even get in there”.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton announced that her government, already the biggest donor, would contribute an additional £38.5 million, bringing its total to more than €116m, and that about €71m would go into the UN’s relief coffers.
The European Union raised its pledge to more than €139m. In addition, Britain said it would double its contribution to more than €77m and Germany raised its aid to €24.9m.
Mr Holbrooke warned that “many billions” would eventually be needed to rebuild Pakistan and 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 intentions were expected to become clear when its representative addressed the second session of the meeting today.
The floods have affected about one-fifth of Pakistan’s territory – an area larger than Italy or Arizona – straining its civilian government as it also struggles against al-Qaida and Taliban violence.
Mr Qureshi said every 10th Pakistani “has been rendered destitute”, crops worth billions had been destroyed and things were likely to worsen as monsoon rains continued.
He said Pakistan’s army had made “substantial” gains against the terrorists, “but the peace and relative calm achieved ... are still fragile and need to be consolidated”.
Pakistani musician Salman Ahmad, who joined Mr Holbrooke and others at the gathering before the UN meeting, said 100 million of Pakistan’s 175 million people were under 25 and “feel abandoned by the world”.
They “have two possible futures – one of following their dreams, the other of being sucked into extremism”, he said.