U.N. Presses Case For Aid In Flood-Ravaged Pakistan

Pakistani flood survivors evacuate from a flooded area of Pathan Wala on August 16, 2010. Pakistan's devastating floods are now threatening ancient archeological sites, on top of leaving millions of people dependent on humanitarian aid to survive, an antiquities official said.
Pakistani flood survivors evacuate from a flooded area of Pathan Wala on August 16, 2010. Pakistan's devastating floods are now threatening ancient archeological sites, on top of leaving millions of people dependent on humanitarian aid to survive, an antiquities official said. Banaras Khan/AFP/Getty Images

More than 20 million people and at least one-fifth of the country's land mass have been affected by the worst flooding in the nation's recorded history, and there are fears that disease could contribute to a growing humanitarian crisis.

The U.N. secretary general is urging nations to step up humanitarian aid to flood-ravaged Pakistan, as residents -– angered by the government's inadequate response -– staged an angry protest Monday to demand relief deliveries be speeded up.

The worst flooding in Pakistan's recorded history began more than two weeks ago in the mountainous northwest and has spread throughout the country. Some 20 million people and at least one-fifth of the country's land mass have been affected.

On Monday, hundreds of victims rolled stones and garbage onto a major highway near the hard-hit Sukkur area to complain they were not getting adequate help. Protester Kalu Mangiani said government officials only came to hand out food when media were present.

"They are throwing packets of food to us like we are dogs. They are making people fight for these packets," he said.

Across Pakistan, millions of people have fled the rising waters and thousands remain cut off. Those who are stranded complain that rescue services are inadequate.

NPR's Julie McCarthy, reporting from the village of Shahgar in the country's agricultural heartland of Punjab, spoke to Mohammad Nadeem, who runs relief to the region.

Nadeem said there's been no government presence in the area and that there were 2,000 or more people in the immediate area stranded by the flood waters.

The army has filled the gap in some places where local governments have failed to provide assistance. In southern Punjab, the military is sheltering about 60,000 people.

One of those flooding victims, Mushahid Khurshid, has a family of eight living under a plastic tent strung together with a few pieces of clothing. He told NPR that his children were getting sick but that he was afraid to complain to the army.

The U.N. has voiced fears that disease, overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in those relief camps could lead to a larger humanitarian crisis.

While local charities and international agencies have helped hundreds of thousands of people with food, water, shelter and medical treatment, millions more have yet to receive anything.

In an effort to draw attention to the disaster, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon toured flooded areas of the country on Sunday.

"I'm here … to urge the world community to speed up their assistance to the Pakistani people," Ban told reporters.

The U.N. World Food Program said Sunday its ability to assist the victims depends upon getting the cash it needs to carry out its humanitarian operations. The WFP has urgently appealed to donors to respond rapidly with $150 million for aid.

The U.N. agency said it has reached about 430,000 people in worst-hit areas with a one-month food ration. If weather permits, the agency said it hopes to reach 2 million people by Aug. 20.

The International Monetary Fund has warned the floods could dent economic growth and fuel inflation in the country.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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