UNICEF set to triple aid appeal for Pakistan flood victims

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The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said Thursday that it would triple its emergency aid appeal for Pakistan's flood victims as the ever greater scale of human suffering became apparent.

Daniel Toole, UNICEF's regional director for South Asia, said by telephone from hard-hit Punjab province that 7.4 million of some 15 million to 20 million flood victims were "seriously affected".

"Those are people that have basically lost everything. They don't have food, water, they don't have clothes, they don't have shelter, they are the most severely affected," he told journalists.

"We now estimate that we need at least 141 million dollars to deal with the numbers we're trying to handle. I think no one understands the scale," said Toole after travelling through the ravaged areas stretching from the north to the south of Pakistan.

UNICEF had appealed for 47 million dollars to fund its part of the huge relief operation in Pakistan two weeks ago, within the overall 460 million dollar UN appeal.

The agency has received just eight million dollars in cash from donors and 35 million dollars in pledges, Toole revealed.

"We cannot pay with pledges," he warned.

"We don't have cash to buy supplies, we've put money forward from our own supplies. It's too little too slow for cash."

An estimated 900,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed, according to UNICEF.

"I've been working emergencies for more than 15 years, I have never seen an emergency this large: the scope, the scale, the number of people displaced," Toole added.

Toole saw people appealing for help from rooftops in some flooded areas, while others were perched on river banks, having fled rising waters with some of their belongings.

The hot weather was turning huge expanses of water into a breeding ground for malaria, while there was a rapid increase in diarrhoea among children in the country, where cholera is endemic, he underlined.

"The situation with health is quite severe."

Toole praised the rescue effort by Pakistani authorities in the monsoon rains.

"The government has done a good job, there has been relatively little loss of life and that is extraordinary," he said.

Nearly 1,500 people have died in Pakistan's worst natural disaster.

© 2010 AFP

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