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US Seeks to Improve Image Through Pakistan Flood Aid

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Robert Raffaele

U.S. officials say they have a long-term commitment to help Pakistan recover from one of the worst disasters in that nation's history. Three weeks of monsoon rains have killed an estimated 1,600 people and affected another 20 million. The American effort also has a secondary purpose  - boosting America's image in Pakistan.

U.S. military helicopters are delivering aid to people in areas of Pakistan hardest hit by the floods.  

The State Department says U.S. assistance to flood-stricken regions has already totaled $76 million.

U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke hopes the aid will make a lasting impression.   

"The people of Pakistan will see that when the crisis hits, it's not the Chinese, it's not the Iranians, it's not other countries," said Richard Holbrooke. "It's not the EU, it's the U.S."

The subtext: there's been a recent spike in anti-American sentiment in Pakistan.

In a study by the Pew Research Center, nearly 60 percent of Pakistanis surveyed described the U.S. as an enemy.

Many of those said they oppose strikes by U.S. drones on insurgents in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

They said too many innocent civilians have been killed in the strikes.

But some Pakistani residents in the Swat Valley told a US television network they are grateful for US flood relief.  

Reporter: "Has this help changed the way you view America?"

Resident; "America, they support the needy people."

Reporter: "Yeah, did it surprise you?"

Resident: "Yes, it was a surprise."

However, many Pakistanis are angry about what they see as the slow response by their own government.

On Monday, protesters in Punjab province burned tires and blocked roads.  

The United Nations has launched an appeal for $460 million, but charities say the response has been sluggish, with only 27 percent of the goal reached so far.

In Brussels Monday, August 16, a spokesman said the European Union is considering more aid for Pakistan.

"Since the scale of the floods are the highest and the most serious in the last 80 years, it is possible that the aid approved by the Commission, so far, is not sufficient," said Ferran Taradellas Espuny.

Another major concern - disease.

The United Nations says 3.5 million children in Pakistan are at risk for water-borne diseases.

A spokesman said as many as six million people overall will be at risk for diarrhea and dysentery if donors do not provide more aid.

He warned there could be what he calls a "second wave of death."

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