Flood-hit Pakistan signals massive reconstruction needs

17th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Pakistan's UN envoy in Geneva said on Tuesday that reconstruction in the north of the country alone could cost 2.5 billion dollars, after floods in the south ravaged an area "the size of England."

Zamir Akram, Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said the country had received more immediate multilateral relief aid through the UN and direct bilateral aid totalling about 301 million dollars (235 million euros).

UN agencies have warned that funding for their 460 million dollar multilateral appeal for emergency relief aid launched last week is not coming in fast enough.

Just 35 percent -- 160 million -- has been paid in so far, although the pace has accelerated in recent days.

Pakistan hoped for "a greater international commitment" during a special session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday, Akram said, dismissing concerns that aid money could be diverted by corruption or Taliban influence as exaggerated.

"The affected area is about the size of England," Akram told journalists, also pointing to huge longer term needs to rebuild homes, roads and farming and secure river beds over five years.

"Initial indicators are that just for the northern part of Pakistan, the requirement would be somewhere to the tune of about 2.5 billion dollars, so it's going to be massive effort for reconstruction and rehabilitation," he added.

A full damage assessment is likely to take another week to 10 days to complete, said Akram.

More immediate relief needs include food, shelter, clean water and medicines for waterborne diseases.

"So far there has not been an outbreak of cholera or any other disease as yet," Akram said.

"Having said that, the danger of these kind of diseases remains and that's why there's a need for speedy efforts to get control of this."

Some 14 million people have been directly affected by the historic floods, according to Pakistani authorities.

The Pakistani envoy blamed the "sluggish or disappointing" international response on trouble getting to grips with the scale of the disaster and a lack of prominence in western media.

But he dismissed concerns about money ending up in the wrong hands, underlining the UN's involvement.

"This is a joint effort and therefore the guarantee is that it's a transparent effort. I think the media is harking on about this issue, as far as we're concerned it's a non-issue," Akram said.

He rejected concerns about a growth in Taliban influence as "an unnecessary exaggeration," insisting that some traditional religious organisations were usually involved in humanitarian assistance in Pakistan.

Aid officials suggested on Monday that Pakistan was suffering from an "image deficit" or "bad press", making donors reluctant to provide funding.

Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Saturday that dozens of millions of dollars earmarked for reconstruction after the 2005 earthquake had been diverted, citing unnamed senior Pakistani officials.

© 2010 AFP

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