The United Nations appealed Wednesday for nearly $460 million in emergency aid for victims of the devastating floods in Pakistan. U.N. Humanitarian Chief John Holmes said the money is needed to help the more than 14 million people affected by the flooding during the next 90 days.
The heavy monsoon rains started wreaking havoc in Pakistan last month, ravaging several provinces as rivers overflowed their banks and torrential rains swept away homes, infrastructure, crops, and livestock. The floods have claimed at least 1,600 lives and left nearly two million people homeless.
John Holmes told U.N. member states the assessment of losses and damages is still under way, but it is already very clear that these are the worst floods in Pakistan for more than 80 years.
"While the overall death toll from this disaster has been relatively low compared with large numbers of people the government estimates to have been affected, unless aid activities are rapidly scaled up to reach those who remain displaced and without immediate access to food and clean drinking water, additional loss of human lives and further suffering will occur," said Holmes.
He warned the risk of water-borne diseases, such as diarrhea and cholera, are particularly high.
Martin Mogwanja, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Pakistan, said that the World Health Organization has already recorded high levels of gastroenteritis and acute watery diarrhea. There is also concern there may be a cholera outbreak.
"I want to underline the risks of a second wave of mortality due to water-borne diseases if we do not act immediately and at scale to ensure the availability of clean drinking water, hygiene and health care, together with comprehensive surveillance to understand exactly what is happening with disease across the whole country," noted Mogwanja.
The $460 million appeal will fund food assistance, clean water, shelter, medical care and other emergency relief for the millions affected by the floods.
The government of Pakistan is leading the relief and recovery efforts. Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador Abdullah Haroon expressed concern that with continued rains predicted, the floods could continue for the next couple of weeks, causing further death and destruction.
Ambassador Haroon said in addition to the significant humanitarian toll, the government fears an economic disaster as well, with its cotton industry particularly hard hit.
"The fear is that this flood might affect the entire Gross Domestic Product [GDP] production of Pakistan by over one to 1.5 percent gross," said Haroon. "Where the GDP expansion this year is advocated at about four percent, you can imagine what that is going to mean."
U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes said prior to Wednesday's appeal, many countries had already pledged funds and/or supplies to Pakistan in the area of about $150 million. Among them is the United States, whose total commitment is about $71 million. It is too soon to say how much of the U.N.'s $460 million appeal has been funded, but early commitments Wednesday were around $10 million, with additional equipment and supplies promised.