United Nations aid agencies say they are in desperate need of funds to carry out emergency operations in flood-stricken Pakistan. They are urging donors to respond quickly to the emergency appeal last week by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who asked for nearly half a billion dollars to help millions of Pakistanis affected by the worst flooding in memory.
Officials with U.N. aid agencies in Pakistan say the scale of the disaster caused by flooding is horrendous. And they say stepped up emergency operations are needed to keep pace with the escalating humanitarian crisis.
Pakistani officials estimate the floods are affecting 20 million people throughout the country. Millions are homeless. So far, the flooding has killed at least 1,600. Aid agencies say they fear many more might die from water-borne diseases.
The World Health Organization has recorded the first case of cholera in Mingora, in the northwestern district of Swat. WHO says this is of great concern because cholera is a deadly disease that spreads quickly in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions.
The World Food Program reports it has reached about 430,000 people with a one-month food ration in the worst hit areas of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. It says it is now distributing food in Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan provinces.
Until recently, WFP spokeswoman Emilia Casella says, the agency has been using six helicopters to fly food to people in areas that are inaccessible by ground. Now, it has four more helicopters at its disposal.
"So, we are at 10 helicopters now and hoping to get even more in the skies. And, that would be a big help because we are most acutely concerned about communities that have been completely cut off, she said. "And, there are still communities, particularly in the north part of the Swat area that are completely cut off - several hundreds of thousands of people."
Casella says the World Food Program plans to reach two million people with emergency food by August 20. But, achieving this goal, she says, depends on favorable weather conditions so the helicopters can fly.
She says WFP has enough food stocks in the country to provide six million people with a one-month food ration.
"At the moment, what we are stressing is the urgency of the situation and also the short window that we are dealing with because, currently, our appeal collectively is a three-month appeal and for the food portion of that, for WFP, it is about $150 million," added Casella. "We have got about a-third of that on line. But, we are appealing urgently to donors to make sure that that amount of food can be acquired and brought in as quickly as possible to maintain the flow."
The World Health Organization's portion of the nearly $460 million U.N. appeal is $56 million. WHO also is appealing to donors to come up rapidly with the money, so it can assess the health risks for Pakistan's flood victims and take appropriate action.
The U.N. Children's Fund says children and women are among the most vulnerable victims of the flood disaster. UNICEF says it needs $47.3 million to provide health, water and sanitation, nutritional feeding and other assistance to millions of survivors.