Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations, speaking in Geneva, says billions of dollars will be needed to rehabilitate and reconstruct Pakistan, which has been devastated by the worst floods in more than a generation. The ambassador is pleading for greater support from the international community to answer the desperate needs of more than 20 million flood victims, many of whom have seen their homes and livelihoods destroyed.
Pakistani Ambassador Zamir Akram predicts a bleak future for his country if greater international support is not forthcoming. He says the scale of the disaster is enormous and the tragedy is continuing to unfold.
He notes an area the size of England, is covered by the floodwaters. He says the Indus River, which runs from North to South into the Arabian Sea, in normal time is three kilometers in its widest part. Since the floods, this has swelled to a width of 35 kilometers.
The ambassador says more than one million hectares of the country's food and cash crops have been destroyed. He says damage to roads, bridges, health clinics, schools and other infrastructure is extensive.
Akram says the relief and rescue phase of the operation is expensive. But, adds this pales in comparison to the cost of rebuilding the country.
"Initial indicators are that just for the northern part of Pakistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, the requirement would be in the tune of about $2.5 billion," Akram said. "So, it is going to be a massive effort for reconstruction and rehabilitation. And, according to our estimate, the time it would take would be around five years."
Ambassador Akram dismisses media reports that donors are reluctant to support Pakistan because they fear their money will end up in the pockets of corrupt individuals. He says he can guarantee all money donated for humanitarian operations will go for the purposes intended.
He also is critical of reports claiming the Taliban are winning the hearts of flood victims by delivering aid the government is not providing.
He calls this an exaggeration and an unnecessary distraction. He says the real issue is helping the people.
"If you really want to stop these kind of extremist, fundamentalist types from gaining influence through their humanitarian activities, then the answer to that is not to not give any assistance, but to give more assistance so that you can make their contributions insignificant," Akram said. "That is the way that you can overcome this possibility."
The United Nations has appealed for $460 million to provide food, water, shelter, medical and other emergency assistance to the flood victims. The U.N. reports only 35 percent of that appeal has been received.
As of now, Akram says Pakistan has received $301 million in multilateral and bilateral aid. He says this is not enough to provide millions of people with basic life-saving relief.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Pakistan will be hosting a special session on the flood-ravaged country at the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Thursday.
Ambassador Akram says he hopes this gathering will lead to greater international commitment and support for Pakistan's rescue and relief effort and subsequent rehabilitation and reconstruction plans.
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