Pakistani President, State Dept. Official Discuss Post-Flood Rebuilding

It could take Pakistan three or more years to recover from the major floods that have affected the country over the past few weeks, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari said, Reuters/ reports (8/24).

“Zardari defended the government’s much-criticized response to the unprecedented floods but acknowledged recovery would take a very long time,” according to the Associated Press. “Three years is a minimum,” he said in an interview with reporters on Monday in the capital, Islamabad (Brummitt, 8/24). “All nations, when they’ve been given such challenges, have always evolved stronger nations, have evolved better nations. I’m hoping for the best,” Zardari said, TIME reports (Waraich, 8/23).

The president also expressed concern about Islamic militants exploiting the floods. “I see always such organizations and such people taking advantage of this human crisis,” Zardari said in an interview with Britain’s Independent newspaper, Reuters/ writes. “It is again a challenge to not let them take advantage of this human crisis” (8/24).

The State Department’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Dan Feldman said Monday at a press briefing that long-term reconstruction could take “many, many months, if not years,” CNN reports. “The sheer impact still needs to be assessed, but will certainly be staggering,” said Feldman, who examined the damage to the country during a helicopter trip last week with a congressional delegation led by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). “Agricultural fields, under water,” Feldman said of the current state of the country. “Roads and bridges, under water; roads continuously disrupted by water, so impossible to move people or food or supplies out; power plants literally under water.”

In addition to emergency aid, Feldman discussed the need for donors to provide funds for rebuilding after the floods. “We’re looking at ways that we can redirect already existing funds … to meet the needs of flood victims as soon as possible,” he said, “so programs for livelihood, for clinics, rebuilding schools, infrastructure that we had already planned, which can be redirected to get to flood victims as quickly as possible” (Ure, 8/23).

Feldman also noted U.S. support for a series of multilateral meetings to coordinate Pakistan’s recovery, the Associated Press of Pakistan reports. “We’re looking at a series of follow-on meetings … multilateral in nature, over the next few months to continue to gauge and assess what the needs will be and how we can best meet those as we shift from relief efforts to construction and recovery,” he said. Since last week’s U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) meeting, “there’s been talk about having another meeting on the margins of the upcoming UNGA in September, which we’ll see, and then there’s a range of other potential initiatives. So there will be a variety of forums of multilateral organizations to continue this dialogue and make sure that the international community is as coordinated as possible,” Feldman said (8/24).

At the briefing, Feldman also said the U.S. and other countries have pledged a total of $700 million for flood relief in Pakistan, Agence France-Presse reports. “By our count, we’ve seen over 700 million dollars pledged, including our own 150 million dollar commitment, from over 30 countries,” Feldman said. He did not provide “a country-by-country breakdown,” AFP notes. Feldman added that there are an “additional 300 million dollars in as yet undefined commitments” from several other countries. “The Financial Tracking Service (FTS), a U.N. database that aims to track all donations, showed late Friday that 490.7 million dollars has come in for Pakistan’s floods, with another 325 million dollars promised,” AFP writes (8/23).

Government To Monitor Disease Outbreaks; Media Report On Aid Efforts, Conditions On The Ground

Meanwhile in Pakistan, the government has established the National Infectious Disease Task Force to monitor the health situation after infectious disease outbreaks were reported, the Daily Times reports. “According to the Health Ministry, the task force will collect comprehensive information about health conditions in flood-affected areas in order to identify and pre-empt disease outbreaks. The information will be shared with response teams and relief personnel in real-time. Headed by the director general (health) of the federal Health Ministry, the task force includes prominent public health specialists and experts in health emergencies,” the news service writes (8/22).

Aid workers need more helicopters to reach about 800,000 people stranded by floodwaters, the World Food Program’s Marcus Perior said, VOA News reports. “We estimate, based on the areas and the number of people that we cannot reach by road currently, that we require at least 40 more heavy-lift helicopters to reach into those areas,” Perior said.

“Pakistan has deployed more than 80 helicopters, including some on loan from other countries, for the relief effort. Perior said aid agencies expect to put five more into service by mid-week and that each one will be critical for the relief effort,” the news service writes. “Just to give you an idea, in one month, those five helicopters could reach 140,000 individuals with food and non-food items, but the needs are enormous,” he said (Maroney, 8/23).

The Washington Post examines why the U.S. continues to be unpopular in Pakistan even though a significant amount of aid has gone to the country. “The U.S. government has provided about $18 billion in civilian and military aid to Pakistan since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks made this country America’s most essential, and vexing, ally. Yet according to a Pew Research Center survey released last month, half of Pakistanis believe the United States gives little to no assistance here,” the newspaper writes.

“Pakistanis insist they are not ungrateful. They just don’t see any tangible impact from the massive sums the United States spends. Unlike assistance from decades ago, the money from the post-Sept. 11 era, Pakistanis say, tends to vanish without a trace. … Analysts say there are many reasons: poor coordination with the Pakistani government, a lack of understanding of Pakistan’s needs and a reluctance to produce iconic projects, lest they become targets for terrorists. … Pakistani analysts say a system that relies largely on Beltway contractors to devise the plans and get the work done has yielded few results” (Witte, 8/24).

CNN reports on the conditions faced by flood survivors, including physical ailments related to the flooding. The article includes feedback from two local aid workers and includes related video reports (Yan, 8/24). 

Some flood survivors “are turning up at camps without the documentation necessary to receive aid, adding to the humanitarian crisis,” BBC reports. In some situations, people had to flee their homes without any documentation and lost everything. The article describes the situation in one camp where the World Food Program brought supplies to a group that had already undergone an aid screening process. “Recently there have been incidents of crowds mobbing aid trucks and people being hurt in the crush and confusion,” the BBC writes. “So this time the chosen few were regimented, sitting on the ground in neat lines in the glare of the sun, men and women segregated, as armed police officers and rangers stood guard around them.” The article includes the perspective of a camp organizer (McGivering, 8/24).

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