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UN unaware of US reports on ‘threats’

The global body is concerned over increase in the number of flood victims. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: Unperturbed by the apparent security threat faced by its humanitarian workers, the United Nations (UN) has revised its estimates of the number of people affected by the floods in Pakistan – and expressed concern about the one million more displaced over the last 48 hours in Sindh.

“There are security measures taken in some sections of Pakistan,” said Maurizio Giuliano, public information officer of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). “There have been attacks in Pakistan before. We know there could be attacks in the future but we do not hope for it to happen as our agenda is to save lives. We are not aware of the US reports about a threat to UN in Pakistan.”

However, a Taliban spokesperson based in Orakzai told The Express Tribune: “We have not issued any such threat; and we don’t have any plans to attack relief workers”

The international community has so far disbursed $291 million (63.5% of the requirements) of the UN appeal for the early recovery of flood victims. On top of that, the international donors have promised to give another $20 million. The Pakistan Initial Floods Emergency Response Plan (PIFERP) envisages costs going up to $459.7 million for the initial relief period, but the requirements will be revised as necessary.

“The aid curve was increasing by up to 5 per cent, but the figure of 64 per cent remains static. Certainly the aid is a matter of concern, even if we try to reach 100 per cent of the appeal – $465 million – we cannot, [because] as the number of newly displaced people increases so does the number of funds required.  The time frame for immediate life-saving humanitarian assistance has also increased to 3-6 months – we need a lot for assistance as an additional 1 million people have been displaced in Sindh. Floods are an ongoing issue and the figures will increase,” said Giuliano.

Saleem Rahmat from IOM representing the shelter cluster said: “Things are being distributed to hundreds of families daily. The goods on their way are slightly increasing, now 2.6 million people will get shelter.

“There are tents and plastic sheets coming in every single day. Eleven flights from USA and UK are coming in and goods are being delivered to Punjab and Sindh, but there is a clear gap of 4.4 million people which needs to be addressed. We need assistance as quickly as possible in the south. A hub will soon be established in Hyderabad for quick distribution and management of resources,” Rahmat told The Express Tribune.

Threat of waterborne diseases emerges in the flood-hit areas as 430,117 cases of diarrhoea are suspected. “Though 3.3 million people have been reached in terms of medical assistance, the figures are rising and it is alarming.” said Paul Garwood from the World Health Organisation (WHO). “WHO is currently working on the direction as to where to establish new diarrhoea centres. Fifteen tons of medicine has been distributed to Sukkur. There is an increase in the cases of malaria in Baluchistan and Sindh which needs to be taken care of,” added Garwood.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Truls Brekke of FAO said: “We cannot do anything until the water goes down. Eighty per cent of the people affected were farmers. There has been a loss of crop, seeds, and animals. It is a matter of concern for the plain areas. The water in the mountains eventually runs down but in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa it will tend to stay for a longer period of time.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2010.

Maha Mussadaq August 28, 2010