Stalled funding hits Pakistan aid effort: UN

A month of catastrophic flooding has now killed 1,760 people in Pakistan.

Updated: Sep 02, 2010, 15:40 PM IST

Thatta: Relief efforts in flood-ravaged Pakistan are being stretched by the "unprecedented scale" of the disaster, with the flow of international aid almost at a standstill, the UN said on Thursday.

A month of catastrophic flooding has now killed 1,760 people and affected more than 18 million, including eight million who are dependent on aid handouts to survive, it said.

Although the initially slow pace of aid had improved since a visit by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in mid-August, the UN said it has "almost stalled" since the beginning of last week, rising from USD 274 million to USD 291 million -- about two thirds of funding needs.

"Given the number of those in need, this is a humanitarian operation of unprecedented scale," Manuel Bessler, head of the UN`s coordination agency OCHA said in a statement.

"We need to reach at least eight million people, from the Karakoram Mountain Range in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south."

Thousands of people were trapped by floodwaters in towns in the southern province of Sindh, while others are complaining of going without food or water for days, some forced to live in the rubble of their ruined homes.

The World Bank raised its emergency funding for Pakistan to USD 1 billion amid dire warnings about the threat to the country`s food supplies.

The floods have ruined 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres) of rich farmland and the UN`s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said farmers urgently needed seeds to plant for next year`s crops.

"Unless people get seeds over the next few weeks they will not be able to plant wheat for a year," Daniele Donati, director for FAO emergency operations in Asia, the Middle East and Europe, said on Wednesday.

"Food aid alone will not be enough. If the next wheat crop is not salvaged, the food security of millions will be at risk," Donati warned.

The World Food Programme has warned that Pakistan faces a triple threat to food supplies -- with seeds, crops and incomes hit.

In southern Pakistan, hundreds of hungry and desperate families from a relief camp in the city of Thatta blocked the highway to Karachi for three hours on Wednesday, demanding the government provide more food and shelter.

"No food or water has been provided to us for the past two days," Mohammad Qasim, a 60-year-old resident of the flooded town of Sujawal, said.

The protest came as under-fire Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani warned the country faced inflation of up to 20 percent and slower economic growth because of the floods, warning of job losses and social unrest.

Gilani said an inflation target of 9.5 percent for 2011 would now likely be in the range of 15-20 percent, spurred by food shortages, while GDP growth would also slide to 2.5 percent from the predicted 4.5 percent.

World Bank chief Robert Zoellick announced an extra USD 100 million to add to an existing USD 900 million loan as he met Pakistan`s Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh in Washington on Wednesday.

Bureau Report