Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday called for the rapid delivery of assistance for millions of people in flood-stricken Pakistan, as he saw for himself the devastation wrought by the recent disaster.
Mr. Ban arrived in the South Asian nation to demonstrate the support of the United Nations and the international community in the wake of what has been called the country's worst disaster in living memory, having claimed more than 1,200 lives and leaving at least 2 million homeless.
“I'm here to see what is going on? I'm here also to urge the world community to speed up their assistance to the Pakistani people,” the Secretary-General told reporters on arrival.
An estimated 14 million people have been affected by the floods, which began late last month in the wake of particularly heavy monsoon rains and which have destroyed homes, farmland and major infrastructure in large parts of the country, most notably the north-west province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK).
Speaking at a news conference after touring the affected areas, Mr. Ban described what he witnessed as “heart wrenching,” recalling scenes of washed-out roads, bridges and even whole villages, as well as people marooned on tiny islands with flood waters all around them.
“I will never forget the destruction and suffering I have witnessed today. In the past I have visited the scenes of many natural disasters around the world, but nothing like this,” he stated.
“The scale of this disaster is so large so many people, in so many places, in so much need.”
Last week the UN and its partners announced they are seeking almost $460 million to help Pakistan tackle the needs of flood-affected families, including food, clean drinking water, tents and other shelter and non-food items, as well as medical supplies.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported yesterday that although the scale of the disaster continues to expand, just 20 per cent – some $93 million – of the funding requirements set out in the Pakistan Initial Floods Response Emergency Plan have so far been covered.
“These unprecedented floods demand unprecedented assistance,” stated the Secretary-General. “The flood waves must be matched with waves of global support.”
He also announced that he will allocate a further $10 million from the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for the relief effort, bringing the total disbursement since the beginning of the crisis to $27 million.
According to OCHA, ensuring access to clean water remains a top priority as rates of diarrhoeal disease continue to increase in affected areas.
The Secretary-General noted that UN agencies and their partners are aiming to provide at least six million people with safe drinking water and food as soon as possible.
Before travelling to the flood-affected areas, Mr. Ban met separately with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, and expressed the solidarity of the UN with the Government and people of Pakistan.
He said he hoped his visit will help accelerate the rate of generous support from the international community, and noted that the immediate relief efforts would need to be complemented by longer-term reconstruction, with help from the UN and global partners.
“As the waters recede, we must move quickly to help people build back their country and pick up the pieces of their lives. Farmers will need seeds, fertilizers and tools to replant. Education, health and nutrition need to be restored quickly.
“In the longer term, the huge damage to infrastructure must be repaired. The UN will be part of all this too,” said Mr. Ban, who added that he will report to the General Assembly on his visit later this week.