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UN launches largest disaster appeal

The UN is making the largest disaster appeal ever, asking the world's governments and humanitarian groups to raise a total of two billion US dollars (£1.28 billion) for Pakistan's flood victims.

Previously, the largest appeal for disaster relief was the 1.5 billion US dollars (£960 million) in aid for victims of the devastating January earthquake in Haiti.

The two billion US dollar appeal announced on Friday by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon includes the nearly 500 million US dollars (£320 million) the UN initially asked countries and organisations to donate after the onset of massive flooding nearly two months ago.

Since then, the flooding has continued to spread, affecting more than 20 million people across a region of at least 62,000 square miles - an area larger than England.

"We have all been struck by the enormous scale of the crisis," Mr Ban said. "The human tragedy is immense and it is growing. The flood waters are (still) moving."

The floods killed more than 1,700 people and damaged or destroyed nearly 1.9 million homes over the summer.

Food, shelter and other emergency aid is still being supplied to displaced people in areas that remain under water. In regions where floodwaters have receded, aid is needed for early recovery efforts.

Crops, irrigation, drainage and storage facilities were devastated across the largely agricultural nation. Farmers who lost crops and who cannot plant again by November will probably remain dependent on aid well into 2012, the UN said.

Mr Ban said children and pregnant women have been left particularly vulnerable by the crisis. "Pakistan is not facing just one humanitarian crisis, but many," Ban said. "All of this makes the Pakistan floods the worst disaster the United Nations has responded to in its 65-year history."

The UN is seeking funding for food, health, education, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as the operating of camps for displaced people, the recovery of the country's farm sector, and rebuilding of communities.

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