UN kicks off special meeting on flood emergency in Pakistan

September 20, 2010 10:36 am 

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 20 — The United Nations on Sunday began a meeting on the flood emergency in Pakistan in order to secure more world support and relief aid to cover the needs of up to 14 million Pakistani people for the next 12 months.

The meeting was co-chaired by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Pakistani Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, together with other top foreign ministers, also took the floor at the ministerial meeting.

"We are here because the Pakistan floods are one of the biggest, most complex natural disasters we have faced in the history of the United Nations," Ban said.

The event came just two days after the United Nations and its partners launched their largest-ever natural disaster appeal, seeking more than 2 billion U.S. dollars for millions of Pakistani flood victims devastated by nearly two months of massive inundations in what Ban called the worst such disaster that the UN has faced.

Overall the floods in Pakistan have affected more than 20 million people, equivalent to over 10 percent of the total population, and the new 2.07-billion-dollar appeal, which more than quadruples the original 460 million dollars sought last month, will provide aid for up to 14 million people over a 12-month period.

The Pakistan Floods Emergency Response Plan will be reviewed in early 2011 and if necessary further revised.

Previously, the largest natural disaster appeal — nearly 1.49 billion U.S. dollars — was launched earlier this year for Haitian earthquake victims. Over 11 billion dollars is required this year for various humanitarian appeals worldwide, the largest amount sought since the beginning of the appeal process in 1991.

The world body is seeking to focus more international attention on the floods, which UN emergency officials have compared to the Haiti earthquake and 2004 Asian tsunami even though the death toll is remarkably lower.

"The floods in Pakistan are a global disaster, a global challenge, and a global test of solidarity," the secretary-general said. "This challenge will require our continued focus and commitment to relief, recovery and reconstruction by everyone in the months ahead."

"We look forward to the government of Pakistan's vision and a long-term strategy for rehabilitation and development with clear priorities," he said.

"The people of Pakistan are counting on the support of the international community," he said. "Let us work to help them rebuild their communities, their livelihoods and their lives."

For his part, the Pakistani foreign minister told the meeting that despite the great efforts by his government and people following the disaster, the reconstruction work in the flood-hit areas is so huge that any country can not do all by itself.

"Despite government's extraordinary efforts, the task of reconstruction and rebuilding is too huge for any country to undertake alone," the foreign minister said. "Our efforts must be augmented by support from the international community."

Ban, who spoke to reporters at the end of the special event, described the conference as "a very productive meeting" and thanked the participants "who have expressed their support and solidarity."

"We are here today to join hands and hearts with the people of Pakistan," he said. "We are here to send a clear message that they are not alone. We are here to pledge that we will do all we can, every step of the way — from relief to recovery to reconstruction."

"This will take much effort by all of us in the months and years to come," he said. "It will require adequate and sustained funding."

"We will continue our focus — including through an October Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Friends in Brussels, as well as the Pakistan Development Forum.

"Let there be no doubt: The floods of Pakistan are a challenge for the world," he said. "The human scale and geographic scope of this emergency make it one of the worst natural disasters any country has faced in recent years." (PNA/Xinhua)

ALM/ebp

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