U.S. Special Envoy To Pakistan Highlights U.S. Flood Relief Efforts

Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to Pakistan, “sought to highlight Washington’s aid efforts Wednesday during his first visit” to the country since the severe floods hit, the Associated Press reports. “Holbrooke stressed that U.S. support is focused on saving lives, rather than winning hearts and minds or pushing Pakistan to step up operations against al-Qaida and the Taliban.”

During a visit to a relief camp, Holbrooke said: “Our country has donated the most money and the most helicopters. We do it through the international organizations, so it may not be as visible, but it is very big.”  

The AP notes: “Other senior U.S. officials have also stressed that the flood relief is purely humanitarian. But even before the disaster hit, the U.S. was looking for ways to improve its image in Pakistan, a country where anti-American sentiment is pervasive despite spending billions of dollars in aid” (Abbot, 9/16).

Holbrooke also raised the possibility that planned water and energy projects could be delayed because some non-military aid in the Kerry-Lugar bill has been diverted to fund flood relief, Agence France-Presse writes. He “told reporters in the southern port city of Karachi that 50 million dollars had already been diverted to flood relief from the Kerry-Lugar Bill,” AFP writes.

“We may switch more money (from the Kerry-Lugar fund), which means some of the projects of the bill may have to be delayed because of emergency,” according to Holbrooke. He also said, “Thousands of thousands of people… are in desperate need of water, food and sanitation. The United States has given you more assistance faster than any other country, but it is not going to be enough” (9/15).

“The international community is not going to be able to raise tens of billions of dollars,” Holbrooke told a meeting of newspaper editors in the southern city of Karachi, Reuters reports. “You have to figure out a way to raise the money,” he said, adding that the floods are “going to put your government to the test.”

Also on Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) “approved as expected $451 million in emergency funding to help the country rebuild. That amount is separate from a $11 billion IMF-backed economic program agreed in 2008. The IMF program includes energy sector reforms and measures to boost revenue,” according to the news service (Georgy, 9/16).

“The [IMF] board’s approval enables the immediate disbursement of the full amount of this emergency assistance,” the IMF said in a statement, the BBC writes (9/16).

U.N. Humanitarian Chief: World Must Find New Ways To Address Natural Disasters

Ahead of an appeal for funds for Pakistan she’s expected to make Friday, “Valerie Amos, the new [U.N.] under secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, called for new thinking on combating mass catastrophes,” AFP reports.

“This is an immense and still unfolding crisis,” Amos said of the floods in Pakistan. “It is one of the biggest disasters we have ever faced. So we will in future have to look at new ways of working, new ways of funding, broadening our donor base,” she said. “This is a disaster which is bigger than one which the UN can deal with alone. It is bigger than what the humanitarian community can deal with on its own.”

“Amos insisted that lessons must be learned from the bigger disasters of recent years, ranging from the 2004 tsunami than killed more than 220,000 people across the Indian Ocean to the Haiti earthquake in January that left 250,000 dead,” the news service reports.

“We can’t just go back to business as usual in terms of how we tackle these large complex emergencies,” she said. “Having seen the tsunami, having seen Haiti and seen what is going on in Pakistan I think we have to recognize that we face bigger and bigger crises and we are going to have to work in a completely different way if we are going to grasp these,” Amos said (9/16).

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