Secretary-General tells General Assembly Pakistan’s Disaster from Devastating Floods ‘One of the Greatest Tests of Global Solidarity in Our Times’

19 August 2010

Secretary-General tells General Assembly Pakistan’s Disaster from Devastating Floods ‘One of the Greatest Tests of Global Solidarity in Our Times’

19 August 2010
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General tells General Assembly Pakistan’s Disaster from Devastating


Floods ‘One of the Greatest Tests of Global Solidarity in Our Times’


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the General Assembly on 19 August:

Thank you for coming together for the people of Pakistan.

Visiting Pakistan, on Sunday, I was honoured to carry with me the sympathy and solidarity of the world, of all of you.

This is what I saw:  Village after village — washed away.  Roads, bridges, homes — destroyed. Crops and livelihoods — wiped out. 

I met many women and men with very little in the best of times, awash in a sea of suffering.  They shared their fears of the next wave — the next wave of water, the next wave of disease, the next wave of destruction.

The eyes see.  The ears hear.  Yet, somehow, the mind struggles to grasp the full dimension of this catastrophe.

Almost 20 million people need shelter, food and emergency care.  That is more than the entire population hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Kashmir earthquake, Cyclone Nargis and the earthquake in Haiti — combined.

At least 160,000 square kilometres of land is under water — an area larger than more than half the countries of the world.

Make no mistake: this is a global disaster, a global challenge.  It is one of the greatest tests of global solidarity in our times.  I therefore want to thank you for all that you have already done.  Thanks to your help, we are feeding people, providing clean water, medicine and shelter.

UN agencies, international NGOs and aid groups such as the Red Cross/Red Crescent have mobilized to support the Government’s response.

We are getting the aid in, by whatever means: helicopters, trucks and even mules.

Nearly 1 million people have received a month’s food ration from the World Food Programme (WFP).  Similar numbers now have emergency shelter and clean water, helped by the UNHCR, UNICEF, UNDP, IOM and many others.  WHO is treating health threats as they arise.

But the needs are great, and this disaster is far from over.  The rains could continue for weeks.  And only now are we beginning to understand the true scope of this disaster.

Pakistan is facing a slow-motion tsunami.  Its destructive power will accumulate and grow with time.  I have discussed this harsh reality with President [Asif Ali] Zardari and Prime Minister [Syed Yousaf Raza] Gillani.

We fully agree on what must be done.

International humanitarian organizations are straining every muscle to deliver.  But they need massive additional support.

Eight million people need food, water and shelter; 14 million need health care, with a special emphasis on children and pregnant women.

We have issued an emergency appeal for $460 million over the next 90 days.  We already have more than half — about 60 per cent — thanks to the generosity of key donors.  But all of these resources are needed, and they are needed now.  Your pledges, today, must be followed up with action — action that delivers change on the ground.

And when the waters finally recede, recovery and reconstruction must begin.  Agricultural losses, alone, will exceed $1 billion, according to the World Bank.  Farmers will need seeds, fertilizers and tools to replant, lest next year’s harvest be lost along with this one.

In the longer term, the huge damage to infrastructure must be repaired — schools, hospitals, irrigation canals, communications, transport links.

In September, we are considering a high-level meeting on Pakistan when world leaders gather for the MDG Summit meeting.  In October, the Friends of Democratic Pakistan will meet in Brussels to explore these matters in depth.

And ultimately, we must recognize that climate change will bring more incidents of extreme weather.  That is why we must invest more in reducing the risk of future disasters.

The United Nations has made disaster risk reduction a priority.  In 2005, the Hyogo Framework offered a pragmatic blueprint for action.  Last year, we introduced the first global assessment report on disaster risk reduction.

Clearly, we must follow through on these recommendations.

This disaster is like few the world has ever seen.  It requires a response to match.  Pakistan needs a flood of support.

Yet in the media, we hear talk of so-called “fatigue”.  There are suggestions that Governments are reluctant to cope with yet another disaster, that they hesitate to contribute more to this part of the world.

But let us remember: if anyone should be fatigued, it is the ordinary people I met in Pakistan — women, children and small farmers, tired of troubles, conflict and hardship.

Instead of fatigue, however, I saw determination, resilience, the hope and expectation that they will not be alone under the darkest of skies.

When faced with the tsunami, the earthquake in Haiti and other natural disasters, we showed extraordinary humanity.  Let us do so again today.  Together, let us stand with the people of Pakistan.   Let us act so that this natural disaster does not become a man-made catastrophe.  Let us give this our all.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.