Local and international relief workers say continued heavy rainfall has worsened the situation in Pakistan where raging floodwaters have killed more than 1,600 people and affected 15 million in the past two weeks. The United Nations says Pakistan will need billions of dollars to recover from its worst floods in history.
In addition to causing major human loses, Pakistan’s raging floodwaters have destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, washed away crops and livestock.
Floodwaters have raged down from the northwestern Khyber Pakhtoonkhaw Province to the agriculture heartland of Punjab and have reached the southern Sindh province.
The country’s army is leading the relief efforts, but with more rain forecast relief workers are anticipating further devastation.
Bad weather has hampered helicopter flights carrying relief goods for victims still trapped in remote areas. U.N officials say they are particularly worried about the needs of 600,000 people who remain completely cut off in the north of Khyber Paskhtoonkhaw Province.
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani traveled to the flood-hit parts of southern Pakistan, where he told reporters his country has been set back many years because of the devastation. He reiterated his appeal for the international community to help Pakistan in dealing with the crisis.
But the prime minister dismissed criticism the government’s poor response is to be blamed for the miseries of the flood victims.
“In fact, the government has done everything possible under its control,” he said. “Provincial governments, they are all doing their utmost. But it is [an]unprecedented flood, it is beyond imagination and it is beyond expectation.”
U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesman Maurizio Giuliano tells VOA shelter for the millions of victims is the biggest and most urgent concern.
“We will need hundreds of thousands of tents,” said Giuliano. “Therefore, we are working closely in support of the government trying to liase with donors, trying to liase with all U.N agencies and NGOs so that we can figure out where we can get a lot of tents from or some other kind of shelter.”
The U.N spokesman says hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian relief will be needed in coming months while in the long term, he says, billions may be needed to rebuild infrastructure and restore livelihoods.
The United States has also urgently rushed humanitarian assistance to Pakistan, including food, shelter and medical supplies. It has already committed $35 million to help people in the affected areas.
U.S officials say about 50-percent of the food provided to flood-hit families is being supplied by the United States through the World Food Program.