UN relief chief pleads for more help for Pakistani flood survivors

Valerie Amos (centre) visits a camp for flood-affected people in Pakistan in early September

9 September 2010 – The top United Nations humanitarian official today cautioned that the international attention on the devastating flood disaster in Pakistan is dwindling even before the millions of people affected have received adequate relief and others are awaiting assistance to rebuild their lives.

“The world’s attention is waning at a time when some of the biggest challenges for the relief effort here are still to come,” said Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

“In some parts of Pakistan, a new disaster is happening every few days and millions of people are still waiting for the support they need to survive,” Ms. Amos said when she visited a camp for people displaced by the floods in Nowshera in the north-western Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“Elsewhere, particularly in the north, people affected when the floods started in late July are now looking to us for help to get back on their feet. Making sure the relief effort tackles both is going to be a huge test of our ability to coordinate and work effectively over the coming weeks and months,” Ms. Amos, who arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday, her first day in the job.

In Nowshera, she visited the Khandar camp, where nearly 400 families are living in tents and are regularly receiving water, food and other basic necessities. She spoke with female heads of households who described to her the days in late July and early August when walls of water swept through the province, demolishing more than 200,000 houses and affecting over 4.3 million people.

One man told Ms. Amos that the water had now receded and that he needed help to go back to his farm before the end of the current crop planting season.

“Many of the people I met today want to restart their lives as soon as possible, which is something we absolutely must respond to,” said Ms. Amos. “Giving people what they need to farm again and eventually to rebuild their lives is as much a part of the relief effort as delivering food, water and health care,” she stressed.

“But we must not forget that elsewhere in the vast area affected by these floods, there are millions of recently displaced people also suffering and waiting for life-saving assistance,” the Under-Secretary-General added.

Floods in Pakistan since late July have already created one of the largest humanitarian crises the UN and its humanitarian partners have ever responded to, and flood waters are still spreading, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which Ms. Amos heads.

Aid agencies have mobilised resources to reach millions of people throughout the 160,000 square kilometres of land affected by the floods. Some UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are, however, running out of funds.


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