18 August - The response from donors to a request to assist millions of people affected by floods in Pakistan is encouraging, with nearly half of the $460 million required having been received, but the contributions are far from sufficient given the magnitude of the disaster, the United Nations reported today.

Some $227.8 million or 49.6 per cent of the total amount requested by UN agencies and NGO partners in the Pakistan Initial Floods Emergency Response Plan (PIFERP) has so far been received, while another $42 million has been pledged, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

“We thank donors for their generosity, and ask them to keep up this accelerated pace of donations. The road ahead remains long. We should all also be ready for any increase in requirements,” said John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

“Watching this disaster unfold, the world increasingly understands its immense magnitude,” said Mr. Holmes. “I am glad that we now see a more positive response to the calls of the Secretary-General and the humanitarian community for increased and faster funding,” he added, referring to the visit by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to Pakistan on Sunday.

The Secretary-General is tomorrow due to brief the General Assembly on his weekend visit to Pakistan, during which he described the scenes as “heart-wrenching” and said the country required “unprecedented assistance.”

In an op-ed appearing in the New York Times today, Mr. Ban said he was also heartened by the willingness of the international community to help Pakistan, and exhorted the world not allow the disaster become a humanitarian catastrophe.

“In the media, we hear some talk of 'fatigue' – suggestions that governments are reluctant to cope with yet another disaster, that they hesitate to contribute more to this part of the world,” the Secretary-General wrote.

“In fact, the evidence is otherwise. Donors are giving to Pakistan, and that is encouraging. If anyone should be fatigued, it is the ordinary people I met in Pakistan – women, children and small farmers, tired of troubles, conflict and economic hard times and who have now lost everything.

“Yet instead of fatigue, I saw determination, resilience and hope – hope and the expectation that they are not alone in their darkest hour of need. We simply cannot stand by and let this natural disaster turn into a man-made catastrophe. Let us stand with the people of Pakistan every step of the long and difficult road ahead,” Mr. Ban added.

According to Government estimates, 15.4 million people are affected by the floods, with at least 6 million of them in need of emergency assistance.

Humanitarian agencies say the floods, which have been caused by unusually high monsoon rainfall, are far from over.

“The Indus River is at 40 times its normal volume,” said Karen Allen, a spokesperson for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Pakistan. “Whole cities of up to 250,000 people have been evacuated, and people have lost everything,” she added.

The UN and its partners have so far delivered food to nearly 800,000 people and enabled at least 1.4 million of those affected to have access to clean water. Nearly a million people have received shelter materials, and medical stocks covering the potential health needs of 1.8 million people have also been provided.

“Unfortunately, this is only a fraction of what we need to do,” said Martin Mogwanja, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Pakistan. “More relief supplies are in the pipeline, and we are reaching more and more women, men and children every day. Tents, food, water purification tablets, are being procured as we speak,” said Mr. Mogwanja, who is also the UNICEF representative in the country.

The water and sanitation cluster of the relief effort estimates that 50 million water purification tablets will be required in the coming days, but only 3 million have been acquired so far.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, reported that skin infections, acute watery diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections are the main health problems being reported among flood-affected communities.

The agency estimated that between the onset of the floods in late July and last Thursday, medical consultations in fixed and outreach medical centres reported 143,870 cases of skin infections, 115,922 cases of acute diarrhoea and 113,981 cases of respiratory tract infections.