August 15, 2010

Channel4: Flooding in Pakistan now affecting 20 million people

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Channel4: Flooding in Pakistan now affecting 20 million people


Story Transcript

With flooding in Pakistan now affecting 20 million people, and with confirmation of the first cholera case, a Save The Children spokesman tells Channel 4 News foreign governments now need to "step up to the plate". Photographs by Channel 4 News Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jonathan Miller.

Prime Minister Yusuf Gilani made the announcement during a speech on Pakistan’s independence day.

In a televised address, he said: "The floods affected some 20 million people, destroyed standing crops and food storages worth billions of dollars, causing colossal loss to the national economy."

Premier Yusuf Gilani said the country now faces challenges similar to those during the 1947 partition, which led to the flight of at least 10 million refugees in the greatest migration in recorded human history.

He went on to draw attention to the threat of outbreaks of epidemics in the flood-hit areas.

The UN has claimed that six million people affected by the flooding have still received no assistance.

One flood victim, Mohammad Umar, said: "The floods swept away our houses. All my grain, wheat, cattle and all household items. No-one came to help up – not even from the government side. We’ve nothing to eat."

More on the Pakistan floods from Channel 4 News

– Emergency aid ‘not reaching’ flood-hit Pakistan

– ‘Four million’ at risk from Pakistan floods

– ’12 million’ directly hit by Pakistan floods

– Pakistan floods: desperation as rain continues

– Pakistan floods: military steps up rescue effort

– Pakistan floods: victim number exceeds tsunami

– More rain as Pakistan floods sweep south

A UN spokesman confirmed the existence of a case of cholera in Mingora, the main town in the north western district of Swat.

At least 36,000 people are reportedly suffering from acute watery diarrhoea, UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs spokesman Mauricio Giuliano told AFP.

Pakistan’s government has been accused of being too slow to respond to the crisis, with victims relying on the military and international aid.

As a result, anger is spreading in the country, raising the possibility of social unrest. Analysts say a military coup is unlikely because the army’s priority is fighting Taliban insurgents.

But Najam Sethi, editor of Pakistan’s Friday Times, has said: "The military and bureaucratic establishment are mulling the formation of a national government, with or without the PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party)."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is preparing to visit Pakistan this weekend to discuss the floods, amid fears that monsoon storms could produce a surge in flood levels.

The flloods which have affected nearly one-third of Pakistan. The UN estimates that 1,600 people have died in the disaster. The Pakistan government has confirmed 1,343 deaths.

‘A colossal response is required’

Mohammed Qazilbash, of the UK charity Save The Children, told Channel 4 News there had been generous public support in the UK for the relief effort in Pakistan. But he said foreign governments really needed to "step up to the plate" in providing assistance for up to 20 million people.

"It is a colossal response effort that will be required," he said, "and until and unless there is an equally colossal financial assistance provided to the people of Pakistan, we may see this aid effort being very difficult to meet all the needs."

He warned that unless aid started to come in "in a timely fashion", we will start to see water-borne diseases like cholera – a second disaster. And he promised that the aid community in Pakistan, including Save the Children, were very well positioned to ensure that aid reached the most vulnerable and affected populations.

"Save The Children is able to reach thousands of children quickly and effectively, all over the country – so long as there is enough financial assistance."

Mr Qazilbash said the message of devastation was getting out there but that decision-makers needed to translate this into direct action.