Pakistan flood aid: millions pledged, but it's still not enough

Pakistan flood aid is nowhere near the billions needed to deal with a calamity that's swept through Pakistan, wiped out crops in the agricultural heartland, and affected some 20 million people.

Kevin Frayer/AP
Pakistanis displaced by flooding reach to grab a bag of food aid during a distribution on the road near the flood line outside of Sukkar, in Sindh province, southern Pakistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17.

Pakistan remains desperately short of the money it needs to cope with the huge floods that have devastated the country in the past two weeks, the United Nations warned Tuesday as the scale of the disaster continued to grow.

A government relief fund established by Pakistan's prime minister has collected just $1.4 million, a government spokesman said. The United States has provided another $76 million in cash, and other countries and international agencies have pledged about $280 million more, which will be distributed through the government, the UN and nongovernmental organizations. The World Bank is to make $900 million available.

Those amounts, however, are nowhere near the billions that are needed to deal with a calamity that's swept through more than one-fifth of Pakistan's land mass, wiped out crops in the agricultural heartland, affected more than 20 million people and has many people worrying that the government itself could collapse. The Finance Ministry has warned that the floods probably will halve the nation's projected 4.5 percent economic growth this year.

IN PICTURES: Pakistan floods

"This is probably the biggest emergency on the planet today, and we need to respond keeping that in mind," Daniel Toole, the South Asia regional director of UNICEF, said at a news conference Tuesday in Islamabad. "It's beyond what any government or any one organization can do by itself, and beyond what we can expect the Pakistani people to respond to."

On Wednesday, the government will face a direct challenge to its fundraising efforts when cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan launches his own campaign to garner donations and set up an organization to deliver aid to flood victims.

"The government has totally collapsed. There's no government here," Khan said in an interview. "The government's efforts to raise money have totally failed, because no one trusts the government."

Khan's political party hasn't shown any significant following at elections and some suspect that he's aligned with Islamic hard-liners, but he has a reputation for being "clean" and a proven record of fundraising. He described the international aid so far as "peanuts."

Much of what the international community has pledged has yet to be delivered.

According to the latest figures from Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority, the United States heads the list of donors with $76 million in cash, plus goods and services that are said to be worth another $11 million. Great Britain is No. 2, with $50 million. China, which is popular in Pakistan, has offered $9 million.

There has been criticism of Muslim countries not giving enough, which seems to have stung some to reach into their pockets. Saudi Arabia has delivered $44 million, while Turkey is to give $11 million.

Many energy-rich Middle Eastern countries are being less than generous, however. Qatar has pledged just $400,000. Pakistan's neighbor to the west, Iran, is giving $800,000, while the United Arab Emirates has no pledge that the Pakistani authorities have recorded.

"The people of Pakistan will see that when the crisis hits, it's not the Chinese, it's not the Iranians, it's not other countries, it's not the EU. It's the US that always leads," Richard Holbrooke, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said last week on PBS's "The Charlie Rose Show."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend a special UN General Assembly session Thursday to push for more aid. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., is due to arrive in Pakistan later this week. to assess the situation for himself

In addition to the cash, the US has 19 helicopters ferrying relief goods and rescuing an estimated 3,500 people. Pakistan continues to fight Taliban insurgents in its northwest, though some 60,000 troops have been deployed to deal with the floods.

"We don't know what impact it's having on the insurgents," the US ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, told a news briefing Tuesday in Islamabad.

(Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

IN PICTURES: Pakistan floods

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