The United Nations appeared to have met its target of £295 million in immediate aid for flood-stricken Pakistan yesterday, after Britain, the US and other nations dramatically upped their pledges.
The promised help came after UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, addressing a hastily-called meeting of the General Assembly, urged governments to be even more generous than they were after the Indian Ocean tsunami and this year's Haiti earthquake.
Mr Ban said the floods were a bigger “global disaster” with Pakistan's government now saying more than 20 million people needed shelter, food and clean water.
“This disaster is like few the world has ever seen,” he said. “It requires a response to match. Pakistan needs a flood of support.”
Before the meeting, donors had given only half the sum the UN had appealed for to provide food, shelter and clean water to up to eight million flood victims over the next three months.
But Mr Ban said all the money was needed now — and much more would be needed later.
After listening to speeches by representatives of around 20 countries, Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said he was assured that the £295m goal “is going to be easily met”, including “$100m plus (£64m)” from Saudi Arabia.
Aid groups and UN officials had worried about a slow response to the flooding.
Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, told reporters before the meeting that he believed that where the tsunami and Haiti catastrophes happened suddenly, “for about 10 days people didn't realise that this wasn't just another flood”.
Yesterday, after visiting flood areas with Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari, US senator John Kerry warned of extremists who might “exploit the misery of others for political or ideological purpose, and so it is important for all of us to work overtime”.
Mr Zardari spoke of militants who might take orphaned children “and train them as the terrorists of tomorrow”.
Mr Holbrooke said it was impossible to assess whether al Qaida or others were taking advantage of the floods because “we can't even get in there”.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton announced that her government, already the biggest donor, would contribute an |additional £38.5m, bringing its total to more than £96m, and that £59m would go into UN relief coffers.
The EU raised its pledge to more than £115m.
In addition, Britain said it would double its contribution to more than £64m. Germany raised its aid to £20.5m.
Mr Holbrooke warned that “many billions” would eventually be needed to rebuild Pakistan and challenged other countries, especially China, Pakistan's close ally, which was recently crowned as the world's second largest economy, to “step up to the plate”.
The floods have affected about one-fifth of Pakistan's territory — an area larger than Italy — straining its civilian government as it also struggles against al Qaida and Taliban violence.
Mr Qureshi said every 10th Pakistani “has been rendered destitute”, crops worth billions destroyed and things were likely to worsen as monsoons continued.
He said Pakistan had made “substantial” gains against terrorism, “but the peace and relative calm achieved ... are still fragile and need to be consolidated”.
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