Humanitarian situation in Pakistan is dire: Rudd

Australian foreign minister says humanitarian situation in Pakistan is dire.

Updated: Sep 18, 2010, 14:24 PM IST

Washington: After visiting flood-hit areas in Pakistan, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd on Friday said the humanitarian situation in the country is dire and international community should remain focused on what is happening there.

Rudd, who appeared along with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a joint press conference, was in Pakistan just before coming to Washington for his bilateral talks.

"I was there yesterday (Thursday) in the southern Punjab and also met with Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and also with Pakistan Foreign Minister Qureshi. The humanitarian situation in Pakistan is dire," he said.

"My simple message to the rest of the international community is that this challenge has not gone away. The risk of waterborne diseases for the people of Pakistan is huge, and the possibility of epidemics still remains real. Therefore, the challenge for us all is to remain focused on what`s happening in that country because of our common concern for our fellow members of the human family," Rudd said.

"Also, strategically, the United States and Australia have deep and abiding interests in Pakistan, and it is therefore doubly important that we provide our ongoing support for the people and government of that country," Rudd said.

Hillary said the two had a long discussion about the dire humanitarian crisis unfolding in Pakistan.

"The minister arrived here from Pakistan, where he surveyed the damage from the devastating floods. And he and I will both be attending a meeting about Pakistan at the beginning of the United Nations General Assembly week on Sunday night," Hillary said.

"What Australia has done in terms of its commitment to Pakistan is exemplary, and now we have to make sure that the money gets to the people and alleviates the suffering that they are experiencing and helps with the reconstruction," she said.

"There are so many matters that are of mutual interest, from developing new technologies for clean energy to addressing climate change, halting nuclear proliferation, countering the threat of terrorism, and so much else," Hillary said.

The two leaders also discussed the current situation in Afghanistan.

"Australia remains strong and robust in support for the United States in its mission and those of the other countries participating in ISAF in Afghanistan. This is not an easy conflict. It is a hard conflict. But we are resolved to stay the course with our friends and allies in the United
States, and we will maintain a very close dialogue with the Administration on the future shape of our engagement there," Rudd said.