Pakistan's 'image deficit' hurts aid funds flow: aid workers

16th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Aid agencies are struggling to get funds for millions of Pakistan flood victims because the country suffers from an "image deficit," aid officials said Monday, with some blaming perceived links with the Taliban and terrorism.

The international response to the disaster was described as "pitiful" by Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who said many countries have also failed to grasp the scale of the catastrophe which has affected up to 20 million people.

Elizabeth Byrs, spokeswoman of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: "We note often an image deficit with regards to Pakistan among Western public opinion."

As a result, Pakistan is among countries that are poorly financed, like Yemen," she added.

Melanie Brooks, spokeswoman of the aid group Care International insisted that the United Nations must explain to donor states that "the money is not going to go to the hands of the Talibans."

"The victims are the mothers, the farmers, children. But in the past, information linked to Pakistan has always been linked to Talibans and terrorism," she said.

Filipe Ribeiro, Medecins sans Frontieres director-general, also pointed to the "bad press" surrounding Pakistan as a reason for the slow flow of aid funds.

"In the media, Pakistan is clearly a country linked to terrorism and corruption, that there, the victims are not as innocent as others," he added.

The United Nations has been struggling to obtain 460 million dollars to provide emergency aid to six million victims of the country ravaged by heavy flooding.

According to the latest update of funding pledges, the international community has transferred 148 million dollars or 32 percent of the total needed to the UN since the appeal was launched last week.

The United States has made the biggest contribution so far while Britain was the second largest country donor.

Clegg, who has taken day-to-day charge of the government while Prime Minister David Cameron is on holiday, said that while Britain had taken a leading role in the relief effort, other countries needed to do more.

"The response from the international community as a whole, I have to say, has been lamentable. It's been absolutely pitiful," said Clegg.

"One of the reasons may be because this is a disaster on a scale that people are struggling to understand.

"We have already taken a lead in the international effort but we need other people to help."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also urged the world to speed up aid for the country when he flew in on Sunday to visit areas ravaged by record floods.

According to Pakistani authorities, around a quarter of the country, which extends over 800,000 square kilometres (308,880 square miles) and counts 167 million inhabitants, has been affected by the floods over the last three weeks.

The United Nations estimates that 14 million people have been affected and that 1,600 have died. The government in Islamabad has confirmed 1,384 deaths.

Billions would be needed in the long term to reconstruct the villages, infrastructure and harvests devastated by the floods, the UN said, also warning of the threat of waterborne diseases.

© 2010 AFP

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