Pakistan thanks world for 'heartening' aid

Pakistan thanked the world for coming to its aid and said more than 20 million flood victims now knew that nations and people around the globe were standing with them during the worst disaster the country has ever faced.

Pakistan thanked the world for coming to its aid and said more than 20 million flood victims now knew that nations and people around the globe were standing with them during the worst disaster the country has ever faced.

Wrapping up a hurriedly called two-day meeting of the United Nations General Assembly to spotlight the immediate need for aid, Pakistan’s UN ambassador Abdullah Haroon said the initial outpouring from around 70 countries was “indeed heartening” and “a good beginning”.

But he stressed that the country would need much more help in the months and years to come.

Meanwhile, a bomb exploded at a checkpoint jointly manned by pro-government tribesmen and police in north-western Pakistan today, killing six people, government official Javed Khan said.

The attack happened in Mohmand, a tribal region 45 miles north-west of the city of Peshawar.

The dead included a policeman, a passer-by and four members of a peace committee set up to check any militant movement, he said.

The bombing underscored the fear that militants were still active and posed a challenge to the government, which has carried out operations to flush Taliban and their supporters from the region.

At the start of the aid meeting on Thursday, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said donors had given just half of the €360m the UN had appealed for to provide food, shelter and clean water for to up to eight 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 €360m goal “is going to be easily met”.

But UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said after yesterday’s session ended that the UN appeal was not yet fully funded.

“At the moment, we’re about 70% funded, about $350m (€275m),” 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, Mr Holmes said, countries also announced contributions directly to the Pakistani government, UN agencies and humanitarian organisations.

“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 UN officials had worried about a slow response to the flooding, theorising that donors who had spent heavily on a string of huge disasters in recent years were reluctant to open their wallets yet again.

Mr Haroon thanked the United Nations – especially Mr Ban, who flew to Pakistan, and general assembly president Ali Abdessalam Treki, who called the aid meeting - for showing compassion and taking action when others did not.

“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,” Mr Haroon said.

On Thursday, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton announced that the US, already the biggest donor, would contribute an additional €47m, bringing its total to more than €117m, and that about €72m would go into the UN’s relief coffers.

The European Union raised its pledge to more than €140.5m, and Mr Qureshi said Saudi Arabia would be giving “$100m (€79m)”. In addition, Britain said it would double its contribution to nearly €78m, on top of €19.5m in public donations, and Germany raised its aid to €25m.

Richard Holbrooke, the US 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 UN ambassador Li Baodong said yesterday 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 €1.2m.

He said the government had decided to provide an additional €5.7m worth of humanitarian aid.

Pakistan announced yesterday that it would accept €3.9m in aid from neighbour and rival India, which Mr Haroon welcomed, saying the disaster transcended any differences and the country was grateful for the offer.

India’s UN ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri said €3.9m in relief supplies was an initial offer and the government was ready to do more to assist the relief effort.

He said India would also “be privileged” to assist in Pakistan’s medium and long-term recovery.

And Iran also announced that it was doubling its contribution to €7.8m

But Mr Holmes stressed that the the UN pledges had to be turned into “real money” to buy food, tents, drugs and water purification tablets and then to be delivered to those in need – “a huge challenge”.

Then, the UN would 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 added.

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