Countries pledge more aid to Pakistan for flood victims

Japan, Australia and Saudi Arabia come forward with aid donations as the international response to the disaster is labelled 'lamentable' by Britain.

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Pakistan won more aid pledges today after concerns that money is not coming through fast enough to help 20 million people hit by unprecedented floods and stave off a "second wave of death" from disease. Torrential monsoon rain triggered catastrophic floods which have affected a fifth of the country, wiping out villages, rich farm land, infrastructure and killing an estimated 1,600 people in the nation's worst ever natural disaster.

The United Nations last week launched an immediate appeal for $460 million (Dh1.68bn) to cover the next 90 days and the UN chief Ban Ki-moon visited Pakistan at the weekend, calling on the world to quicken its aid pledges. Officials now estimate that 35 per cent of the funds have been committed. Japan today came forward to pledge an additional $10 million in emergency aid and Australia promised an extra $21.6 million.

"There are grave risks that the flooding will worsen Pakistan's social circumstances but also its long-term economic circumstances will be potentially devastated," the Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith told ABC Radio. State media in Saudi Arabia said the country had raised $20.5 million in aid on the first day of a national campaign for the Pakistani floods. Flood survivors cramped into sweltering tent cities or camping out along roadsides have hit out furiously against Pakistan's weak civilian government.

Britain, which is emerging from a recent diplomatic row with Pakistan, branded the international response "lamentable" and charities said Pakistan was suffering from an "image deficit" partly because of perceived links to terror. A UN spokesman said yesterday he feared Pakistan was on the brink of a "second wave of death" unless more donor funds materialised, with up to 3.5 million children at risk from water-borne diseases.

The World Bank also agreed to provide Islamabad with a loan of $900 million, warning that the impact of the disaster on the economy was expected to be "huge". The UN chief Ban Ki-moon has urged the world to speed up aid urgently, while the Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the country could not cope on its own and warned the disaster could play into the hands of insurgents. "We fear we're getting close to the start of seeing a second wave of death if not enough money comes through, due to water-borne diseases along with lack of clean water and food shortages," Maurizio Giuliano, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

*AFP