Pakistan floods affect 4.5 million people: UN

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Devastating floods in Pakistan have affected an estimated 4.5 million people, United Nations officials said on Friday, as relief workers warned that aid needs were "absolutely daunting".

"The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates globally that 4.5 million people have been affected by the flooding," said UN spokeswoman Elena Ponomareva, marking an increase of some 300,000 in a day.

Citing estimates from Pakistani authorities, UN relief agencies said 252,000 homes have been destroyed as relentless monsoon rains continue and flood water rolls southwards through some of the poorest parts of the country.

"Basically, as we're hearing, the scale of the needs is absolutely daunting," said Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The UN's World Food Programme said it was preparing to provide food aid to some 2.5 million flood victims for three months, after delivering rations to 237,000 people in the worst hit areas.

"It's a rolling emergency, this is something that's not over, the rains are continuing" said WFP spokeswoman Emilia Casella.

"That means the people who are already affected are being further affected, and the people who weren't affected yet are now at risk of being hit by dmaage to their homes, their crops and their businesses," she added.

One million people hit by previous emergencies in the northwest, including the huge 2005 earthquake and conflicts, were already relying on WFP food rations before the worst floods in living memory struck.

The WFP said it was likely to ask donors for about 63 million dollars to finance emergency aid in Pakistan, while the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) appealed for 47.3 million dollars to fund its relief operation in Pakistan.

About 1.8 million children are among those hit by the flooding, according to the agency, and are especially vulnerable to the risk of disease.

"They need water, medicine, food and shelter urgently," Martin Mogwanja, UNICEF's spokesman in Pakistan said in a statement.

UN agencies were unable to say how many people were displaced or homeless.

© 2010 AFP

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